Promising media seek emancipation
Twenty years ago Bhutan became one of the world’s last countries to allow television and the Internet, but now this Himalayan kingdom and its media landscape are evolving rapidly. Radio nonetheless still plays a major role in providing the public with news. The 2018 Information, Communications and Media Act confirmed the creation of a Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority whose five members are directly appointed by the government, which poses a major threat to media independence. The main daily newspaper, Kuensel, which is published in both English and Dzongkha, still belongs to the state, while the state-owned Bhutan Broadcasting Service lacks any legal status guaranteeing its editorial independence. Recent election coverage nonetheless showed that pluralism continues to develop. Privately-owned publications exist although the economic environment is difficult, above all because of the limited number of readers and insufficient advertising, most of which is state advertising.
Recent defamation suits and a national security law penalizing any attempt to create “misunderstanding or hostility between the government and people” have continued to act as a brake on journalistic freedom. The level of self-censorship continues to be high in the land of “gross national happiness” because many journalists avoid covering sensitive issues for fear of appearing to challenge the social order. The Internet is booming, with more and more news circulating on blogs and social media. But, journalists who dare to post investigative reporting or criticism are subject to online campaigns by political activists that combine disinformation and defamation with personal and sometime racist attacks.
67 in 2020
28.90 in 2020