May 3rd, 2008 14:30 EST
No Press Freedom In Bhutan
International Press Freedom Day
Despite the first general elections held in Bhutan recently, state of press freedom and freedom of speech and expression is in sorry state.
We are very much concerned with the tactics RGBO has been playing in not ensuring press freedom in a new democratic set up of the country. The parliament scheduled to begin its first session on May 8 is expected to endorse the constitution that has a number of provisions curtailing the freedom of press and freedom of speech and expression.
But, we welcome RGOB’s decision to permit to limited foreign journalists to report recently-concluded general election situation.
We believe that democracy would never foster unless the state guarantees free press where people would adequately exercise their right to speech and expression, now seen at risk in Bhutan.
Right to information is a distant object for the Bhutanese nationals. The private media houses, journalists working in them and media organizations (SAFMA Bhutan chapter is only one for now) have done not enough in unveiling the curtain of right to information, right to speech.
The private newspapers are compelled to be self-censored and thus appear sympathetic to the government's foreign policies including its stance on Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal.
Until the constitution comes into effect, Bhutanese press will be guided by the 1992 National Security Act, which forbids any criticism of the country's political affairs and the monarch.
We strongly urge the RGOB to review its media policies with complete guarantee of freedom of speech and expression.
The whereabouts of Shantiram Acharya of Bhutanese refugee camp, Beldangi-II, Sector ‘D’ Hut no- 85, associated with The Bhutan Reporter Monthly and Jagaran Fortnightly arrested on January 24, 2006 at Tashilakha under Chhuka district (South West Bhutan) by Royal Bhutan Army still remains unknown.
We call upon international rights and press freedom bodies to exert adequate pressure on Druk regime on revising its legal and constitutional provisions that envision a democratic Bhutan where everyone will be guaranteed with freedom of speech and expression.
I.P. Adhikari (President- Association of Press Freedom Activists Bhutan)
T. P. Mishra (President – Third World Media Network, Bhutan Chapter)