Exciting news

There’s excitement in the air. The media fraternity has finally launched the Journalists Association of Bhutan. The journey has been long: it began way back in 2006, and has included a UNDP funded project and the establishment of the Bhutan media foundation.

So, naturally, our journalists are excited. I’m excited too. I congratulate our journalists. And I wish them success in their mission to improve the quality of journalism in Bhutan. Congratulations also to JAB’s office bearers, especially to their first president, Passang Dorji.

But there’s another reason for that excitement. The media fraternity has been preoccupied by a state of commotion, confusion and suspicion.

Kuensel informs us that most of them had no idea what was happening and “most came to know about the election only on the evening before.” Kuensel also informs us that two elected members of JAB’s powerful steering committee have already resigned, and that several media houses have questioned the election process, that they have called for a re-election, and that they have been thinking about boycotting the association.

In his letter to the JAB general secretary, Tenzing Lamsang, one of the two steering committee members who resigned, has complained that “… since last evening powerful forces both inside and outside the media have been hard at work to undermine the elections and along with that JAB as an organization.”

Bhutan Today laments that “Everyone wants to hold the reins. But there is a proper way to get there. “By hook or crook” should not be in the dictionary of the Fourth Estate …” And they ask “Where are we failing? Is it the tyranny of the minority but powerful players?”

There’s no doubt that the JAB elections were controversial. But then, on the other hand, every one seems to endorse the new president. If so, where is the controversy? And why did Tenzin Rigden and Tenzin Lamsang resign from the steering committee? Who are the “powerful forces both inside and outside the media” seeking to undermine JAB? Who are those that crave power even “by hook or crook”? Who are the “minority but powerful players” in the media?

There’s excitement in the air. But it could be just a storm in a teacup. Or it could be a dangerous storm, one that is actually about power politics. Either way, we, the people, would be obliged if the media could tell us what all the fuss is about; if they could shed some light on what’s really taking place; if they could give us the really exciting news.

 

 

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  1. Kelpazangla says:

    So there is corruption lurking in the society who report on other’s corruption. How will media publicise justice with in-house corruption?

  2. It is very exciting indeed. this is the issue with in the media themselves and best one to respond to this excitement is Mr. Tenzing Lamsang himself, may be in a while will get a response to this commotion.

  3. Media sector in Bhutan has been emerging (good for all of us); yet it has lot to do to remain voice of the voiceless. “Self-censorship” has been a ‘mantra’ for many journalists in Bhutan. Let’s hope that with the pace in time, media will emerge as real independent and powerful force in Bhutan. Good luck friends!

  4. media boost about transparency and it is high time they practice it what they report and sometimes preach(through editorials)….

  5. of course one can’t make everyone happy…any attempt to such goal will turn out to be extremely tiring and futile. i strongly believe in the leadership of those young leaders elected. bickering by some members of the media was shallow to say the least, it demonstrated immaturity and a sore loser in them and i think those elected should not get effected by it.

    Tashi delek to passang and the Team …looks like they will need lot more mental strength to make JAB a functioning Association.

  6. What I know and believe is “hearsay” has more value and strength than “evidences”. I know of issues were decisions are taken based on hearsay than on facts. This is a common trend in our society. May be the same sickness got on the Bhutanese Journalists’. If you don’t believe, then read my blog http://www.kbwakhley.blogspot.com.

  7. Passang Dorji says:

    Purposes and Functions of JAB

    1. Protect and promote the constitutional right to information, freedom of expression and media
    2. Maintain and promote a high standard of ethical behavior in the practice of journalism
    3. Foster a growing number of professionally trained journalists in the country
    4. Protect journalists from hazards such as threats, harassments, litigation, etc. from interest groups
    5. Support journalists who are seriously injured or permanently disabled or killed in the line of duty through compensatory grants
    6. Promote interaction and exchange of ideas for the professional development of its members
    7. Explore funding sources to collaborate in professional education programs for journalists
    8. Institute mechanism to recognize journalists through awards and grants
    9. Stimulate and sustain professional debate on crucial issues through seminars, workshops and discussion fora.

  8. chatu journalist says:

    This is media politics at its best. Seriously, who are the “powerful forces” both within and without? If anyone should be unhappy with JAB, it would be the media owners. Are they trying to add fuel to the fire, sparking this controversy? Are they trying to destroy JAB even before it is formed. Or are the journalists who did not get elected who are making all the noise?

    As far as I am concerned, JAB will benefit all journalists of Bhutan. JAB has finally happened and should we start cribbing just because your or my candidate did not get elected. Whoever is behind making all this noise must come upfront and question the people who organized the election, ask for clarifications, instead of using their own newspapers to spread what seems like a “venomous” attack! This speaks very poorly of the Bhutanese media fraternity. We expect more from the fourth estate, not endless bickering, accusations and counter accusations. Media must grow, and this is not the direction.

  9. Django Peg says:

    The JAB’s nine point plan is insufficient. The JAB is about journalists not media houses and in that respect what is needed above all is for all journalists to be given a decent signed contract with their employer and to be paid fairly and on time.
    At the moment, this is not happening. Until it does, then the whole thing will remain a farce.

  10. I feel the controversy surrounding the JAB elections has more to do with pride rather than other reasons. Tenzing Lamsang and Tenzin Rigden’s resignation from the Steering Committee is good for JAB’s future. Now I see JAB with a group of people who can work as a team, which can take its concerns forward.

    But first of all, the member of JAB (journalists) must realize and agree that the association has been formed to help themselves, and not the media houses. Without this knowledge JAB will not meet its purpose, especially if it is influenced by individuals who have motives other than the welfare of JAB and the journalists.

  11. The Journalists are worried about the measly affairs of the JAB election which was held earlier this month which is why they have been hurling accusations at each other causing bigger disharmony in the private newspaper business. The establishment of JAB is a big step for all journalists, but a bigger concern for JAB from my point is the job security of journalists which is at stake because of changes in the local media industry. JAB may come up with the best charter and formulate good policy documents but there the chance is big that they may be without jobs in the next 4-5 months. This also concerns other people in the newspaper houses.

    The cause I am talking about is the continuous bullying of the private newspapers by Kuensel, where most of the private newspapers are printed. It is not yet public knowledge but Kuensel has increased the printing cost by almost 80-100% since January 2012. In addition it has been demanding unreasonable amounts as security deposit. This has added to the already high overheads of the private companies, which could ultimately cause most private newspapers to close business. Is this something we would want in the first 5 years of our democracy?

    Right to Information (RTI) is still pending, and this important tool of free media is a concern for the pride of bhutanese media, when it is accused of still being under state control. While Kuensel is the prime culprit that is striving for the monopoly it once enjoyed, there are talks around that the trigger might be pulled by people in the government. Why would such allegations prevail? It could be because of the 2013 elections, and the government’s concern might not be totally misplaced since it was the private newspapers that rallied the voice of the people, whereas Kuensel let business interests prevail over the true essence of journalism. It is no longer a secret that Kuensel is aligned to side with the govt irrespective of which party comes into power.

    Today the Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF), which was initiated to help media development by His Majesty is stagnant. The reason may be that one of the board members is the MoIC secretary Dasho Kinley Dorji, who was the former MD and now also a shareholder of Kuensel, and the chairman of BMF is Kusnel MD Tshencho Tshering. This may be the very reason why BMF has done nothing to improve the conditions of the Bhutanese media, even though it already 2 years since it was set up.

    The government’s ear;lier plan of a print city would have benefitted the private newspapers, but this has been stalled somewhere. This would have not only ensured free competition in the market, but also would have ensured the sustainability of the private companies, which will ultimately lead to the growth of media, and quality journalism. But these objectives are getting lost behind political and business interests.

    I fear not only for free media in Bhutan, but also for the hundreds who will be back on the street looking for jobs in the market. If authorities show true concern I say they should check the facts with the private companies. I say it is not too early to investigate into the matter. The country owns 51% of Kuensel – which means all bhutanese are stakeholders in Kuensel. The govt must look into the matter as soon as possible. Or is the govt keeping quiet for its own reasons?

  12. mediafreak says:

    If there is any truth in what Sonda says, then kuensel is blatantly trying to exploit the private newspapers by jacking up the printing cost to an unimaginable high. And why shouldn’t Kuensel do this? Firstly, it enjoys monopoly as almost all the papers depend on Kuensel for printing. Secondly, it would use such unscrupulous business tactics to get rid of competition. To be fair, to stay ahead in the game, Kuensel can take advantage of the weakness of its competitors in a free market.

    However, this could have lot of repercussions, especially in the early years of our democratic experiment. Whatever said and done, private newspapers do play an important role in creating a vibrant media, which is fundamental in strengthening and deepening democracy; in creating an informed society; in encouraging public debates on issues of national interest, etc.

    My suggestions:
    1. Private newspapers must now try to look for other alternatives. There are several printing presses and newspapers must approach them.

    2. All owners of private newspapers must come together and jointly invest in a decent press.

    3.If none of the above happens, they must seek government intervention. The government cannot let the newspaper just die away – saying ‘this is determined by market forces.’

    4. BMF must do something to help these newspapers.

  13. I am not very sure whether the govt will intervene here. This is the biggest opportunity to annihilate most of the private newspapers. If this situation prevails, most newspapers will have to close business within 3
    2 to 3 months. I have heard that Kuensel deliberately annoys the newspapers by increasing within even a week. Here I see Kuensel using its ace card blatantly. The nation’s biggest newspaper is panicky and it is using its muscles without scruples.

    As Mediafreak said a common printing press is now urgent. At the same time a check on kuensel’s rabid actions must also be made. This situation clearly shows the reasons why Kuensel was always against the print city plans. If there is a bigger figure bent on killing the private media, I say he will succeed. At this moment private newspapers are lambs in the slaughter house.

  14. Bhutanese media is in the news again. I hope everything changes for the better. It will be sad to see the Media that has been built over the last 5-6 years crumble. And if monopoly comes to exist in media again, it will be bad for the image of Bhutan, and democracy in Bhutan. I just hope this incident does not tarnish this image.

    Otherwise Best of Luck to private media.

  15. HAPPY-GO-LUCKY says:

    GOOD LUCK TO THE PRIVATE MEDIA…BUT HONESTLY, IF EVERYTHING IS LEFT TO THE MARKET FORCES, SOME STRUGGLING PAPERS WILL HAVE TO CLOSE DOWN. It is the survival of the fittest!

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