Index 2024
147/ 180
Score : 37.29
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Economic indicator
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Index 2023
90/ 180
Score : 59.25
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A quarter of a century ago, Bhutan became one of the world’s last countries to allow television and the internet, but now this Himalayan kingdom, with just over 750,000 inhabitants, is facing many economic and geopolitical challenges, as is its media landscape, which is marked by a lack of independence. 

Media landscape

The country’s main daily newspaper, Kuensel, published in both Dzongkha and English, is owned by the government. The opening of the country and its democratic transition, which began in the mid-2000s, were accompanied by the emergence of privately owned publications such as The Bhutan Times and Bhutan Observer. The state broadcaster, the Bhutan Broadcasting Service, lacks its own special status guaranteeing editorial independence. As for the digital sphere, it is booming, and information is increasingly circulating on blogs and social media. 

Political context

Bhutan's constitutional monarchy was established by the 2008 Constitution, which proclaims press freedom. However, the alternation between the different political parties does not seem to have any impact on press freedom in the country, where self-censorship persists.

Legal framework

The 2018 Information, Communications and Media Act confirmed the powers of the Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA), a media regulator whose five members are directly appointed by the government. Journalists report difficulties getting access to state-held and governmental information, which ultimately deprives the population of information of public interest. Recent defamation suits and a national security law penalising any attempt to create “misunderstanding or hostility between the government and the people” have acted as a major brake on journalistic freedom. 

Economic context

Privately owned publications survive in a difficult economic environment, with a relatively low readership and insufficient advertising, which, for the most part, comes from government agencies, representing 80% of the advertising revenue of newspapers. This can have direct consequences on editorial content: in 2012, the government was accused of reducing advertising spending for The Bhutanese, a weekly newspaper, in retaliation for an article listing cases of corruption. This served as a warning to all media outlets.

Sociocultural context

In the land of “gross national happiness”, self-censorship is one of the main problems: many journalists avoid covering sensitive issues for fear of appearing to challenge the social order. In this predominantly Buddhist country, the media rarely refer to the situation of the Lhotshampa. More than 100,000 of this Nepalese-speaking minority in the south of the country were expelled from the territory in the early 1990s.


Journalists are rarely the targets of physical threats. However, as a result of social media’s development, those who publish investigative reports or bothersome articles can be the subject of online harassment campaigns launched by political activists who combine disinformation, defamation, and personal and/or racist attacks. A telling example: independent journalist Namgay Zam, former presenter of the state-owned Bhutan Broadcasting Service, was accused, in 2016, of defamation in retaliation for her investigation into a prominent businessman. 

Abuses in real time in Bhutan

Killed since 1st January 2024
0 journalists
0 media workers
Detained as of today
0 journalists
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