Media awarded

14 different prizes were up for grabs during yesterday’s First Annual Media Awards. Of them, I was especially interested in seeing who would bag the prize for the best editorial of the year. Editorials, after all, are important: they express a newspaper’s stand or opinion on issues. And editorials are powerful: many readers, especially in rural Bhutan, accept, without any questions, the opinions expressed in the editorials as the truth.

So who was awarded the prize? The prize was awarded to not one, not two, but three journalists representing the three main newspapers in our country – Kuensel, Bhutan Observer and Bhutan Times.

What does this mean? That the editorials, one from each of our three leading papers, were equally good. Or that the editorials, one from each of our three leading papers, were equally bad. Or that the judges, appointed by and paid for by the government, were guided by considerations other than quality of the editorial.

Government awards media awards

Today, on World Press Freedom Day, our government organized the first Annual Media Awards. Yes: the government organized the event. This is good, but could also be dangerous.

This is good because our government’s sponsorship of the annual media awards could be seen as support for the media. After all, the government is recognizing and rewarding the best in the media, in spite of the fact that, due to the nature of their jobs, those in the media regularly question, and sometimes even confront the government.

This could be dangerous because the media should not allow the government to decide who among them to recognize and to reward.

So from next year, I hope that the media is able to organize this important event without the government’s involvement. At the very least, the winners would draw much more pride and satisfaction knowing that they were recognized by their peers, and not by judges appointed and paid for by the government.

Free media

On Sunday, March 22, Bhutan Times reported: The most direct evidence of our new democratic freedom this past year is the ease with which the kingdom’s young media professionals can now get hold of government leadership including, even, the Prime Minister himself. Good.

On Saturday, April 11, Kuensel reported: The prime minister said that the government respected the media. It had in no way hindered them. “The government lets media do what they’re supposed to be doing. People need to know the truth, both good and bad … We should be honest and we should reveal.” Very good.

On Wednesday, April 15, Kuensel reported: When discussions got heated up between MPs and coordinators, the DPT party told the press to leave the hall. Not good.

Opposing the oppostion

My last entry made Di demand that the opposition leader oppose the government’s decision directly and firmly. This is what she said:

“dear OL, are u not going to say anything to oppose this directly to the cabinet? this is wrong wrong wrong. this goes against every morals, values and ethics we have ever been taught. this is showing us that the people who are incapable and the least deserving get the best in life. It is a mockery to everything we have been taught is right. Do u not have duties and rights, as the opposition leader, to oppose this firmly?”

Di is right.

I have the duty to oppose the government when their decisions are unlawful or are not in the best interest of the tsa-wa-sum. I have this sacred duty at two levels: first, personally, as a citizen of this great country; and second, officially, in my capacity as opposition leader.

My last entry was a “personal” attempt to oppose our government’s decision. Through this blog, I have made my personal views on the medical grant issue public. Naturally, I hope that my humble views may receive favour of our government’s attention.

Similarly, but more importantly, many of you have also expressed your personal views in this blog and other on-line discussion fora. I believe our government will give serious consideration to all constructive comments, regardless of how they are communicated.

But what will I do officially? As opposition leader, I still do not know the full story. I don’t know the real objectives of the grant, the number of private students it would cover, criteria for selecting students, obligations of the students, financing source, and how the scheme will be implemented from the new academic session onwards. I also don’t know if the government is considering similar assistance for private students specializing in other professions.

So, as opposition leader, I have spoken with people in the cabinet secretariat, ministry of education and ministry of health. I have also written “officially” to the ministry of education, who will presumably implement the scheme, requesting for information. Their feedback, your views, and the government’s response will determine if I, as opposition leader, should “officially” oppose our government’s decision.

Our government will make mistakes. But know that the opposition’s earnest belief is that, when that happens, our government will admit their mistakes, apologise for them and take corrective measures – all this without “official” opposition.

On a related note…

The public has been quite vocal. This is good for democracy.

But our media has not given any attention to the public’s growing concern on medical grants. This is not good for democracy.

Visit di’s blog

Free media’s ace

The ministry of information and communications finally has a secretary. Dasho Kinley Dorji, the former Kuensel MD, assumed his new office this morning.

Dasho Kinley, popularly called “Ace”, has a big responsibility. On the one hand, as the champion of a free media, journalists will expect him to continue leading and defending our still nascent media.

But as a government secretary, on the other hand, he will be expected to carry out the directives of the government, his political masters.

I wish him Tashi Delek! I also wish him, and the press, good luck.

Photo from

Not much to cover

I have no problem that Bhutan Times featured me on its front page today. Frankly, I’m flattered.

But everybody else should have a problem with that. The article is definitely not front page news. While some readers may find the opposition leader’s New Year resolutions interesting, they are of no national significance. Not the stuff that serious news papers would consider front page material.

However, the deed, so to speak, has been done. So let’s have some fun.

First, the photograph. I’ll buy lunch for the person who can tell me where it was taken. For obvious reasons, I can’t allow the photographer, my friend Colin, to participate.

Second, the trek. Visiting my constituency involves walking. A lot of walking, as two of the three gewogs have no roads at all. And for the purposes of my New Year resolutions, visits to my constituency won’t qualify as treks – they are way too difficult to be considered that. So if you are interested, really interested, in walking, and walking with me, contact me. You’ll get to visit the house featured in “What’s decentralized?”

As for the trek, I still say “Will I ever be able to do the Snowman?”

Watching BBS

Consider this: The BBS has already televised the prime minister’s speech during the National Day celebrations in Pema Gatshel on four different days – 23rd December, 25th December, 28th December and 31st December.

Now consider this: The BBS has televised His Majesty the King’s address to the nation during the National Day celebrations in Thimphu only on one day – 17th December.

More pay hike talk

Kuensel’s Tenzing Lamsang is amazing. He’s done it again. He’s written yet another story almost entirely based on government “sources”. And he is thorough – his account is packed with names, dates, places, amounts and important quotes. He seems to know too many details about the confidential debate that the government has been having on the pay hike issue.

Our government is amazing. They’ve done it again. They’ve allowed classified government information to leak, including details of discussions in our highest decision making body, the Cabinet. Is classified information being leaked purposely? Or are they being stolen? If it’s the former, a dangerous game is being played. If it’s the latter, it’s dangerous, plain and simple.

Now back to Tenzing and the ongoing saga of the pay hike.

Today’s piece is his fifth pay hike story. And most of his information, by his own admission, are from “sources” in the government, even from within the cabinet. This must stop. The selected information leaks, protracted discussions, and the government’s indecisiveness have fueled wild speculation and unnecessary anxiety among public servants. And today’s story will make most civil servants a little more anxious, thanks to the leak about discussions in the Cabinet on teaching allowances.

Before democracy, under His Majesty’s government, the salaries of public servants were increased six times between 1985 and 2006. None of these increases were preceded by promises of increasing remuneration. All of them came as pleasant surprises. And public servants were deeply grateful for each increase.

The government will not get such gratitude – it’s gotten itself in a no-win situation. But before the situation gets worse, before the public looses more trust and confidence in the system, before civil service morale suffers irreparable damage, I suggest that the government settle the pay hike issue once and for all.

Now that would be real news.


10 December 2008: I have no evidence that the government leaked information to Tenzing Lamsang, or that he may have stolen information, or that he may have paid for stolen information. My intention is to caution the government about information management, not implicate the reporter in any way.