Changes in Government Ad Policy Threaten Bhutan’s Independent Media


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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