Illegal censorship

Loud and clear

Loud and clear

Bhutanomics is a political satire blog set up by “Bhutan analyzers” who are committed to keeping a check on the “ballooning egos of the powerful so that they don’t forget the people are watching.”

The blog was launched in March, last year. And within no time, they attracted a large and faithful following which seemed to keep growing. Traffic to the blog was so high that the administrators were forced to upgrade and expand their website infrastructure several times.

Then, all of a sudden, on 12 January, Bhutanomics went dead. Their website was inaccessible. In fact, users of Tashi’s or Samden’s ISPs could access it. And anyone outside the country could access it. The website could also be accessed using anonymous proxy servers.But anyone using the Druknet’s internet services could not access the website.

Druknet is Bhutan’s biggest ISP. And Druknet is a government-owned company.

Most followers were convinced that Druknet had blocked Bhutanomics. But Druknet denied it. The information and communication secretary and BICMA, the media’s regulator, also denied any involvement in blocking Bhutanomics. And the cabinet secretary denied issuing any order to block the website.

Yet, Bhutanomics was not accessible. And full access to it was reinstated only only after the outpouring of public outrage threatened to grow. The controversial website is back online. But all is not well. All cannot be considered to be well until the perpetrators of the blatant censorship of Bhutanomics are exposed and bought to full account.

I’m reproducing below the full interview between Bhutanomics and Kuensel with the hope that we reflect on what happened; that we continue to ask questions; and that we commit to fighting any and all forms of illegal censorship. 

 

Q. Well firstly, I haven’t yet confirmed with Druknet/BICMA if Bhutanomics is indeed blocked, but attempts to access it so far seem to indicate it is.

A. Bhutanomics hasn’t been accessible in Bhutan since 12 Jan 2013. Strange thing is its still viewable through a proxy server.

Just as a precaution, have you checked with your own web host to eliminate any technical reasons?

Our website is firing on all cylinders. Bhutanomics is accessible everywhere in the world except Bhutan. Why would we spend precious little money we have to run a website that doesn’t work?

If it is indeed blocked, like what happened to the previous version of Bhutan Times, then my question to you would be whether you think this censorship of free speech, and why?

Obviously it is. Bhutanomics is not like the old website bhutantimes. In that most of the focus was on anti-national rhetoric by people in the camps. Only prior to the 2008 elections did bhutantimes begin to approach domestic politics and that was restricted to bashing one main person contesting for prime minister. We suppose, if Bhutanomics did that i.e. bash someone other than the ruling government (we could even bash the country it seems) we would not be banned. We would be welcomed.

As you can see Bhutanomics has no affiliation. Everyone is a fair target. Everyone is allowed to contribute. The central theme is that we care for the country and each article is about something that makes us worried, whether it is bad policy or personality flaws or sheer stupidity on the part of those in power.

If you aspire to positions of power, you must be able to take the brickbats. In America, groups have questioned openly the very citizenship of the president.

If the PM can take unlimited praise such as “JYT phenomenon”, “world statesman”, “no other leader like him”, “solver of the Amochu problem,” and so on, then he should be able to accept that there are others who think otherwise.

If meetings and conferences were open and criticism and argument were permitted instead of avenged by the government (such as with many civil servants, dzongdags and newspapers) then Bhutanomics may be unnecessary.

But with the lack of space for free criticism we have to resort to this.

By banning us, the ruling government has joined that very special group of governments in North Korea, Cuba, China, Syria, etc., where there is censorship of the internet.

How would you respond to comments that some material on your website is defamatory/personal attacks/perhaps could undermine a free and fair elections?

The stories that we have published are all contributed by people – people who are concerned about the state of the country. We just provide the platform and the security for those people to express themselves.

The parts considered unbearable by those in power are what in other countries is called satire and lampooning. Check out NDTV’s political cartoon or The Onion in the US or the numerous ones in the UK.

Banning criticism is really the situation where free and fair elections are not possible.

What is the purpose of Bhutanomics? And when was it established?

We have been around since the beginning of 2012. We think of ourselves as the Bhutan analyzers who try to keep up with the happenings in the corridors of power. We try to keep a check on the ballooning egos of the powerful so that they don’t forget the people are watching.

Given presence of proxy servers, Facebook, and Twitter, does such a block really matter to you?

The block proves that our government cannot stand any form of criticism. That matters to us. If they are sincerely doing their duty why would they be averse to criticism?

Yes proxy servers means people can still read bhutanomics but that’s not the point. If people feel a certain way about something they should be allowed to say it. Why block them? It’s a futile exercise. You can’t block the internet in this day and age. Instead the government should read between the lines of the satire and try to correct their mistakes.

 

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Comments

  1. The site http://www.bhutanomics.com disappeared by magic since no one claims for its sudden disappearance. In other words, it was inaccessible. Even I tried to access it and then failed. So, magic has hailed.

    Good that it is back. Hope there will be no more magic again.

  2. People can criticize the government, but as fourth Druk Gyalpo remarked years ago, all criticisms should be constructive. But, I find almost all the articles in Bhutanomics totaly outraging, baseless and destructive. We know that so many unwanted cartoons and defamatory remarks are made elsewhere in the world. But, we don’t want the same kind of dirty things happening in our country of GNH. If Bhutanomics is to be seen as an impartial media, why is there no critical article about any opposition member? Many people think that this website was created and is maintained by the supporters of PDP. The Constitution has given the freedom of speech and expression, and at the same time it enshrines responsibilities towards strengthening unity, security and integrity to the nation. Therefore, destructive and baseless articles are unacceptable.

  3. Disclosure: I’m a non-Bhutanese IT professional.

    I’m not saying that there wasn’t censorship by Druknet in this case, but there can be technical problems/reasons for why the site was unaccessible only to Druknet customers. Hosting and upstream bandwidth providers are constantly tweaking and configuring their network hardware to maintain and improve their networks. It’s not impossible that their hosting provider OR their upstream bandwith provider had something misconfigured and realised their mistake a few days later.

    I’ve personally encountered problems accessing an online game hosted in the US, and the problem was only limited to other gamers using the same ISP as I was. Other ISP customers in the same country had no problems, and everyone elsewhere in the world also had no issue. After contacting and troubleshooting with the game support staff (through a proxy service), it turned out to be a misconfiguration in the upstream routing and the problem was fixed after a few days. There was nothing nefarious at all about my inability to access the game, and it was not the fault of my ISP.

    Problems like these happen alot more frequently than you think. Feel free to confirm this with an professional IT professional in the network business outside of Bhutan.

    Just a FYI for you and your readers.

  4. True spirit of freedom of expression implies tolerance of opposing views; and this is healthy for budding democracy. At this juncture, any form of censorship is viewed sceptically. If i were in the government, i would welcome any forms of criticism with open arm, and rebut if they are not true or slanderous.

    I happened to scan Bhutanomics web site recently; and i find it hilarious filled with sarcasm with unsavory truth and readers often try to point out follies and vice in our society. I think we need such satirical web site to keep check and balance in the society. Society that can not tolerate criticism and correct follies is doomed. I think Bhutan is vibrant society and we should allow all kinds of views to flourish: after all diversity of opinions, ideas etc. is a spice of vibrant life.

    Cheers

  5. Yes , I agree with those people who are saying the Bhutanomics is only publishing one sided story.

    Yes, I agree the story may be untrue.
    Yes, there were personal attacks too.

    But I think at the end of the day it onto us to make sensible decisions whether to believe or not. These days you can see thousands of distorted facts on internet, but that doesn’t give a right to any authority to block those sites. I think we Bhutanese can make our own judgement.

    @OL, nice to see updates on your blog. I was thinking maybe government also blocked your site.LOL. Great to hear that you have asked MoAF minister about ban on chemicals. Let me share my views on this issue.

    Why should we ban those things when we are importing vegetables from India?

    When every nation is using those chemicals and moving towards self sufficiency, why should we go back to ancient techniques?

    You have to ask why organic farming worldwide is struggling to gain the popularity? It is simply because such organic techniques can’t produce enough to feed the ever increasing hungry mouths.

    For Bhutan given the limited cultivable land, we don’t have a choice. I think at the end of day we need to fill our stomach to be happy. Now please! karma Ura and PM, do not say that you can be happy without food!

    According to kuensel date 20th Feb, An agriculture specialist, Thinlay, said that large scale use of pesticides and herbicides have negative impact on environment. Yes i agree, but i don’t think anywhere in Bhutan we have large scale use of such chemicals. I think the quantity that we use in Bhutan can be easily contained with our natural systems.

    Kuensel also mentioned “There were about 16 pesticides, including potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, calcium and magnesium, being used since 1960s in agriculture for growing agro-products such as rice, potato and maize in Bhutan.” Why do MoAF consider these nutrients has dangerous chemicals? These are just nutrients which could be easily utilized in the natural ecosystem. Environment doesn’t get polluted as soon as you introduce chemicals into it. They have their adaptive capacity. From the quantity that we use in Bhutan, this cannot be an issue.

    My suggestion: MoAF should focus on wise use of these nutrients and chemical rather than banning the use.

  6. The website is online though I have not missed it before. While there are valid points in regard to censorship, Your Excellency, we do have remember impact of our actions (which in this case is speech). We are in small society where word of mouth has far reaching and wider impacts. (for example revealing identity of a prosecuted individual would have impact on their children). The freedom of speech does not mean that we have to be crass in the delivery. We also remember that we are country that is wedged between two powerful countries that is sensitive to our alliances and inclinations (whether by the government, opposition, individual, etc). So the impact also extends to geopolitics.

  7. It is very possible that the Webmaster would have Blocked access to any one using Druknet service (IP Blocks are different for different service providers and they are available for everyone to see)
    While its good to have some satire..it isn’t good on their part to publish every story sent to them..I particularly didn’t like what was written about the BOB DMD..because it was written by someone within the company who may be disgruntled or on a defamation mission.. who will verify these stories???
    and can someone come forward and show their face and say “We are the Bhutanomics”. Bhutanese have been granted freedom of expression and stuffs,, noone should be scared..come on@

  8. I actually have a problem with the OL supporting Bhutanomics, what they are doing is only portraying our small kingdom in a very negative light, so if the OL is patriotic about Bhutan as he claims to be, he should be shunning this site, rather than championing it, which he seems to be doing at present.

    For someone who is a graduate of Harvard, how he cannot figure out the main aim of Bhutanomics is beyond comprehension.

  9. Yes, I agree that use of Argo-chemicals in bhutan is negligible and it is because of stringent control systems that are being implemented by the concerned agencies of the moaf. Judicious use of agrochemicals is extremely important because there are several adverse effects associated with indiscriminate use of agrochemicals and when dangerous agrochemicals (e.g. Insecticides) are readily available tendency with our people is to spray even when they observe harmless insects crawling on their crop.

    Yes, we should not ban use of agrochemicals because they are required when large scale pests outbreaks occurs or when crops are grown in poor soil or when there is continuous cultivation. But the key is use them when absolutely required based on informed choice and scientific methods.

    Cheers

  10. OL is an opportunist – will clutch at every straw to score a point. Problem is he seems to be clutching the wrong ones. His article here gives me the impression that he is one of those behind this infamous Bhutanomics site which puts out nothing but anti-Bhutan and anti-Bhutanese propaganda. This has nothing to do with censorship of speech but every thing to do to stop anti-scoial elements from poisoning our society.

  11. Great..again OL block my comment because i wrote half truth against him…

    Shouting so loud for freedom of Bhutanomics

  12. Bhutanomics is crossing the line!!! This is not how to use the freedom of speech. It is full of poison and is spoiling the mindset of young Bhutanese.

  13. If OL remains silent and let the government do whatever they wished. What is purpose of having an OL? Am at least grateful that he is taking the trouble of informing the people of the situation. It would depend on each one of us, whether we take it positively or negatively. Am surprised that people are directing what the OL must do. From my point of view he is the opposition and he should oppose as much as he can. We as educated citizens have the right to be positive or negative about the OL’s views. But why would someone attack the OL. He is not the ruler. In fact we should all support him if we feel the government is wrong. If the government is right, we dont have to support them, as they already possess power.

  14. Nothing should be censored or banned. These kind of websites are accessible to only educated people residing in towns and, almost all such viewers are matured enough to make their own judgement. If people think that, by posting and portraying other people with such defamatory and destructive pictures and articles, then, they are totally wrong!
    It is human nature that when someone tries to ban or censor something, one becomes more curious and tries to see it through other means. But, on the contrary, if it is left unchecked, after sometimes, people gets tired with negative comments and won’t even bother to read it.

  15. There is no such thing as bad publicity. I think all this episode did was provide more publicity for Bhutanomics, thanks to Druknet, the govt, Tenzing Lamsang or BBS.

    I am all for the space to provide constructive criticim, but the Bhutanomics’ claim to be like “the Onion” or other satire website is far from the reality. Either they are delusional, or more likely using that as an excuse.

    Satire on websites like The Onion etc. make fun of the absurdity in real news. The stories on Bhutanomics is not in that spirit. Rather they provide a platform to personal make attacks against one individual (the PM). They claim it is submission from individuals, but when the whole foundation of the website is anonymity, who is going to believe if it is submissions or work of the web masters.

    It started great. I learned of the site from this blog about the “report cards”. that was great satire with elements of truth. But it just degenerated to personal attacks.

    So Bhutanomics should not pretend to be a satire website. It is just a reincarnation of a few individuals like “Common Man” on the old Bhutantimes.com

  16. Now the truth is coming out in the open. OL’s entry on his Facebook a/c revealed the kind of person he is and the kind of person he associates himself with. Bhutanomics is nothing but an electronic extension of the Bhutanese newspaper owned and operated by the same people.

  17. Bhutanomics as a blog was a mix of both true and false information and news. I agree that it went overboard on certain issues, but it also brought to light many information hidden behind the doors of the rich and the powerful. While advocating democracy in our country, somehow the government has failed to allow free speech. As a result anonymous sites like these will always pop up, especially on social media.

    While I enjoy reading most posts, I would suggest that Bhutanomics keep it at an acceptable level. But it’s good that OL cleared the accusations that he is connected to this site. All is well that ends well!

  18. Here is the list of proxy servers click anyones and type in the web address. Works well. http://www.publicproxyservers.com/proxy/list_domain1.html

  19. Lingchen says:

    Fixating on the illussionriness of Samsara. Oh what fun and pity at the same time!

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