Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) wrote to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to stop publishing and circulating their e-newsletter on June 10, the day the inaugural edition of its quarterly e-newsletter was launched.
PDP published its e-newsletter titled PDP Today on PDP party official Facebook page.
Accoring to BICMA, as per the section 202 of Information, Communications and Media Act of Bhutan 2018 (Act) a person shall not publish newspapers and books in Bhutan without obtaining a valid publishing license from the authority and as per section 96 of the Act, a political party is not eligible for a publishing license.
Therefore, the authority informed PDP to stop publishing and circulating the e-newsletter.
In response PDP clarified that it was only an internal document for circulation online among the PDP members and not to be published or for any commercial publication but they will be publishing it on their website and other social media outlets.
BICMA wrote back on June 18, citing the Information, Communication, and Media Act of Bhutan 2018 where it defines what publication means. “The act of making news, views, information, pictures, drawings or other matter available or accessible to the public at large, or a section of the public, in any form or through any means of communication.”
The response from BICMA also stated that since PDP is already in the public domain, this e-newsletter as an internal document and non-commercial purpose is not justifiable. “The Authority would like to once again inform your office to refrain from publishing the e-newsletter in the public domain through any means of communication.”
The BICMA management told Business Bhutan that the Authority has asked PDP to refrain from publishing and circulating quarterly e-newsletter in public domain as it is accessible to the public at large and distributed on regular intervals but have never stopped them from sharing it within their domain or closed group.
However, the BICMA management said that the Act is silent on maintaining websites and social media pages by the political parties therefore; BICMA does not have any views on this.
Meanwhile, former speaker and Secretary General of PDP, Jigme Zangpo, said, “We were quite surprised by the letter from BICMA citing that the e-newsletter we launched via our Facebook page is not allowed. Our editorial on the e-newsletter clearly specifies that of the principal objectives of the e-newsletter is to elaborate PDP’s alternative views and policies on various issues affecting our country. Although we lost the election and we are no longer in the parliament, we were supported by 28% of the electorate compared to 32% for the ruling DNT and 31% for the DPT in opposition. We think we owe it to our supporters and the nation at large to provide alternative views on policies and plans discussed in the parliament.”
He further said that as a registered political party, it is their sacred responsibility to not only engage in dialogues but also to introduce PDP outside the parliament and exact accountability transparently. “We could have resorted to anonymous accounts on social media but we think it is not good for our democracy and does not strengthen it responsibly,” he said. “We have immediately written to the government agency that our e-newsletter is not published and is to be used as an internal communication within the party to exchange ideas and thoughts for alternative views.
We asked the agency to consider and they wrote to say it is not allowed. We are writing again quoting the constitutional provisions and the pertinent sections in the BICMA Act with provisions for license-requirement exemptions and we hope the agency will acquiesce as other political parties had published similar newsletter when the PDP was the government,” he added.
Chencho Dema from Thimphu