OMA cautions BBS and Kuensel

The Office of the Media Arbitrator (OMA) has written to Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation Limited (BBSCL) and Kuensel, stating that election news coverage is not balanced. The letter to BBSCL, written on 21st December, states that on 20th December 2023, BBSs’ coverage of a news article on penalties imposed on political parties focused only on one political party, which may be construed as unbalanced in nature and may influence the elections directly or indirectly. A similar letter was written to Kuensel in context with their coverage of a story titled “OMA fines PDP coordinator for violating social media news.”

Meanwhile, the chief editor of BBS, Yeshi Gyaltshen said that they do their best to be fair, accurate, and unbiased. However, he said that at times it is difficult to gather the information.

Yeshi shared that they carried a story on the 20th of this month about how the Office of the Media Arbitrator had fined a supporter, party worker, and a candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after getting information from sources. Calls were made to the OMA, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), and other relevant officials to verify the authenticity of the story further.

“Maybe it was due to their busy schedule, but they only confirmed the information we had,” Yeshi said, adding that, BBS ran another story the next day after getting the details from the sources that had been dealt with by the OMA.

“On the same day, we also got a letter from the OMA regarding our first news article. I would like to clarify that the story we ran is not biased,” the editor added.

Meanwhile, the editor said that sharing information at a crucial time is very important.  However, he said that getting information from the relevant agencies is not easy.  “Sharing of information by relevant agencies and officials with the media plays a crucial role and right now this is lacking most of the time,” Yeshi said.

Regarding the balanced coverage by the BBS, Yeshi said that BBS has always strived for fair and balanced coverage upholding the highest standards of journalism. “Our editorial policy places a significant emphasis on presenting news in a fair and balanced manner and we have processes in place to prevent undue influence and partiality.”

Similarly, the editor of Kuensel Corporation Limited, Tshering Palden said that the story they published was factual and accurate which was the reason why they published it.

The Kuensel editor said, “We respect the friendly notice the OMA, as the regulatory authority, issued to us to exercise caution to rule out any element that might be perceived as bias in our future stories.”

Tshering also added that the OMA is empowered by law to issue such reminders and what they think on such arbitrary matters is immaterial.

“As a responsible national media institution guided by stringent in-house policies on content, we will keep doing what we know best and at the same time be guided by regular reminders from our authorities,” Tshering said.

Meanwhile, the OMA, in its letter has asked the two media houses to ensure that all news coverage on political parties should be balanced in nature and also to consult the OMA or the ECB for necessary information, wherever relevant.

Tandin Tshewang from Thimphu