The International Federation of Journalists joins partners in the South
Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) in expressing concern over a policy shift
by the Government of Bhutan policy shift which restricts the advertising earning
potential of all independent media outlets in the country.
According to sources, a secret circular was issued by the Ministry of
Information and Communication on April 2 asking all government departments to
withhold their advertising from the daily newspaper, The Bhutanese. This circular came to light mid-August and has
caused serious concern among independent media.
Following this, in June, the Ministry of Information and Communication
in Bhutan, ostensibly in line with a directive from the Ministry of Finance
imposing budgetary restrictions on ministry budgets, asked all government
departments to review their ad placement decisions in all media outlets.
This week, the Election Commission of Bhutan announced that all
election-related advertising would be published only through state-owned media. This is a serious concern for
independent media as national general elections (scheduled for 2013) contribute
significantly to their revenue through public service announcements by the
It is estimated that 80 per cent of total advertising spending in the
Bhutanese economy originates with the government.
The government’s directive forbidding advertising to be placed in The Bhutanese is believed to be in retaliation
for the publication of articles critical of possible abuse of power and
corruption, arising from the government’s use of its discretionary powers.
“We call on the government of Bhutan to review these directives and to
follow the official policy which protects an independent media,” said the IFJ
“It is the declared policy of the government to delink ad placement
decisions from the content or editorial stance of the media outlet concerned”.
“This is a sound policy, vital to sustaining a free media in a country
where the limitations of the market impose formidable barriers to media growth.
It must be fully adhered to in practice”.
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