We build our own standards

What does Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index mean to Bhutan? In particular, how ought we, the media professionals, to interpret the picture that is brought to our faces this day?

According to the index, Bhutan’s press freedom ranking improved by jumping ahead 20 steps in the last three years. In the same period, however, we saw media houses in this country slowly die with whimper. Media professionals feel that access to information and issues of sustainability, among others, are the challenges that thwart the growth of vibrant media in Bhutan.

But this new ranking gives us new hope. We can do better. As Prime Minister said at the Excellence for Journalism Award in Thimphu yesterday, “we need to be more free.” Media freedom and independence is vitally important for our young democracy.  When access to information is largely circumscribed, exercising freedom can be challenging.

Even as we speak, media landscape in the country is changing. There are challenges we must address. Many a seasoned journalist has left the sector. The media managers and owners do not invest in journalism. We may have what could loosely be called media independence, legislative framework and safe environment for media practitioners, but freedom enough to exercise within such framework is vitally important for media to grow.

For the Bhutanese media to grow in terms of both quality and number, there is need to look at ourselves first. Media freedom and growth depends on many factors that are not necessarily their own. Structural changes will be required that guarantees transparency and accountability in public offices. In other words, access to information is what will ultimately determine media independence and freedom.

Because media in Bhutan have to depend largely on government advertisement for survival, freedom can be a complicated affair to define. Media’s intervention in public policies by way of inviting meaningful debate is often seen as blocking the move. While media professionals take it as their mandate to question and advise policy moves, public officials do not see it that way. This must change. We have a lot of work to do.

Where we, the media, stand today must be drawn from our own challenges. This new ranking is encouraging, but we must set our own standards.

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    Affordable and easily accessible internet connectivity along with today’s numerous online platforms have changed so many things with media in recent times. Information, whether it’s just knowledge or news or both, has become a medium both in a continuous flow and in a continuous circulation.

    Every time the all important topic of freedom of press comes up, we always listen to the journalist bodies and press expressing themselves on the topic. With information in the flow, everyone may end up being the consumer and there is nothing such as the end consumers for information. But then, it’s just my opinion. And the opinion of an individual like me usually doesn’t matter while accessing any product documents or expressions with journalistic nature and input.

    So many times, it has been discussed even on Kuensel… news papers and other media struggling with just the revenue that gets generated only from limited advertisements. Even this is not a source that is in abundance to resource everyone. And here, we mention both the benefits and challenges with big media houses getting involved in the information and news business.

    When we talk right to information for its access, we always think the right handling of the same and the very right to use it the right and justified way. This is where I have heard and read journalist bodies and press expressing dissatisfaction with restrictions without reasons.

    The same topic generated with a given set of information can produce numerous neutral discussions. It all comes to information analysis and the thorough research that’s involved in the same. Processing of each and every such discussion can present readers and audiences with point of views that can generate new knowledge bases effective enough to influence policies even at public or government level.

    This is where the vastly important field of journalism demands tremendous responsibility in contributing to the growth of a society in its views and prospect of a so called knowledge economy. The general readers, viewers and audience are always hopeful and expecting more dedicated inputs to enhance their general outlook.

    So yes, freedom for press is vital for that and it’s good to know that Bhutanese media is progressing in the right direction. And to set its own standards, there may be a need to think the architecture involved with journalism and the guiding literature for press that has always continuously influenced journalism in any society in a way that gives a freedom the meaningful expressions for that very standard.

    As the neutral readers and observers without any biases, every one of us wants to see journalism in Bhutan contribute more and more to its society and the nation as a whole.

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