Fine on Bhutan Broadcaster Contravenes Spirit of Media Freedom

The International Federation

of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned that a fine of Ngultrum 18,000 (about US$370) levied on the Bhutan

Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) is contrary to the spirit of media

freedom and may lead to undue restraints on the exercise of free speech in

Bhutan.

 

According to reports received by the IFJ,

the country’s regulatory body, the

Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA),

found that a panel discussion aired by the broadcaster on the quality of a

pre-paid taxi service was contrary to the media code of conduct in force.

 

Some of the speakers invited to the program allegedly attacked officials

of Bhutan’s

Government. There was no official representative on the program to speak on

behalf of the Government.

 

The BBSC management has clarified that a representative of the Road

Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) was invited to participate in the program, but left shortly after making his initial

comments.

 

“The IFJ appeals to Bhutan’s

regulatory authority to waive the fine imposed on the BBSC since it sets a bad

precedent in terms of the media’s role as a watchdog on the conduct of

governmental authorities,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

“As Bhutan

goes through a significant transition to popular democracy, it is essential that a clear signal is sent that

media freedom and the public’s right to free speech will be protected.”

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists

in 122 countries