Challenges beset journalists in parliamentary reporting

Journalists are faced with challenges when it comes reporting on parliamentary process and procedure. They rarely enjoy information and ideas on how to carry out parliamentary reporting. The media focuses on the Parliament only during the parliamentary sessions, most times remaining unaware of what happens in the Houses beyond the session.

Tashi Dorji, a former journalist said that the fact that media faces challenges in most areas particularly in parliamentary reporting is due to the media in Bhutan being very young. He said most of the reporters are new and parliamentary reporting entails a lot of complexity of understanding the parliamentary systems and legislative process which is not simple. “It takes experience to report on the parliament,” he said.

He said that reporters lack in parliamentary reporting in the sense of understanding of the parliament processes, as it can be quite cumbersome to go through the literature that exist on the parliamentary processes. “It entails reading a lot of books and it can be overwhelming for journalists who are young,” said Tashi Dorji adding if the reporting is planned out and the processes understood, it will not be difficult to cover the parliament efficiently.

Meantime, a two days hands-on training on parliamentary reporting was held by the Bhutan Media Foundation between November 9-10, enhancing the interface between the media and parliament. Twenty two reporters and a few editors from print and broadcast media attended the workshop.

He said that trainings on parliamentary journalism has not been conducted in earlier days and with this training, it will help journalist start thinking about being more professional when it comes to parliamentary reporting.

With the training, he said that reporters can know how to go about doing reporting in parliament, how to generate ideas, and to be more observant. “Parliament does not literally mean covering what is being discussed inside the parliament.”

MP of Bartsham-Shongphu constituency and former journalist, Dr (Phd) Passang Dorji said given the constraints in manpower, experience and other required resources, reporters are giving their best in reporting parliamentary affairs. However, he observed that news stories on parliamentary issues are limited to deliberations in the house. “Much of the works are done at the committee level in the lead-up to a parliamentary session,” MP said adding it would be good for reporters to drive beyond the deliberations in the house.

He said that interactions and engagements between MPs and reporters are rare in Bhutan. “MPs could reach-out to the people on issues that matter through news stories, while the reporters could become effective conveyors of information.”

He said professional interactions is important between them as both MPs and journalists are accountable to the people and their roles to some extent are similar in order to ensure accountability, transparency and efficiency in governance.

“Our reporters could look into investing some time in getting to know our MPs and to have professional engagements.”

He explains that Parliamentary reporting could appear complex to reporters as they have to understand laws and policies, do background reading and research on the issue they report therefore getting help of parliamentary experts and staff is important.

Executive Director of Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF), Needrup Zangpo said the objective of the workshop is to bring the parliament and media closer by helping parliamentarians and journalist understand each other.

Under the project ‘Enhancing Parliament and Media’, BMF conducted the first workshop in August on proceeding and processes of parliament for journalists; it aimed at understanding parliament better. The second workshop was conducted in October for parliamentarians on the workings of media with an aim to make them understand the workings of the media better. More than 30 MPs attended the workshop including the Speaker of National Assembly. The follow up to these was the third hands-on training for journalists on parliamentary reporting.

Needrup Zangpo said that these three workshops aimed to help parliamentarians and journalists understand each other better, to work together and promote democracy.

Tenzin Lhamo from Thimphu