Rankings Do Not Give a Reason to Celebrate: PM

Rankings Do Not Give a Reason to Celebrate: PM

Addressing the gathering at the World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Thimphu yesterday (May 3rd), Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay engaged in a candid reflection on Bhutan’s press freedom landscape. Expressing concern over the country’s declining press freedom rankings in recent years, the Prime Minister posed a thought-provoking question: Is there truly a cause for celebration amidst this downward trend?

Rather than merely lamenting the challenges, the Prime Minister issued a rallying cry to the media fraternity, urging them to channel their energies towards constructive dialogue and collaborative problem-solving. Emphasizing the importance of collective action, he extended an open invitation for journalists to actively engage with the government in crafting solutions to bolster press freedom and ensure the continued vibrancy of Bhutanese media.

In his address, Prime Minister Tobgay underscored the significance of a free and robust press in upholding democratic principles and fostering national progress. By fostering an environment of mutual respect and collaboration, he envisioned a future where Bhutan’s press freedom rankings would not only stabilize but ascend, reflecting the nation’s unwavering commitment to democratic values and the empowerment of its citizenry through informed discourse.

“I am not happy. We cannot celebrate without talking about the press freedom index; and if we look at it, we have nothing to celebrate for,” the PM said. The PM reminded the media fraternity present that the rankings fell from 90 out of 180 countries to 147 out of 180 countries.

In the words of the Prime Minister, amidst the challenges faced, there remains a beacon of hope: the safety and freedom enjoyed by Bhutanese journalists. Thankfully, no journalist has had to make the ultimate sacrifice, and threats against their well-being have been minimal. Despite the hurdles encountered, Bhutan continues to champion a free press, a testament to the nation’s unwavering commitment to democratic values and the principles of transparency and accountability.

“To make matters worse, the economy of the country is not in a good shape. In-spite of all this, our journalists have prevailed. We have young budding journalist who are doing more to hold those im power to account,” he said.

An emotionally charged PM requested United Nations representatives who were present for the function to ask Reporters without Borders, what the problem in Bhutan is all about. “A desperate PM wants to know,” he said.

To the Bhutanese media, the PM said there is need to think about the ranking. “Probably there is truth and you all should let me know what I and the government can do,” he said, reiterating that this (rankings) is not a cause to celebrate.

The PM informed that in the five different indicators, Bhutan fell from 61 to 154 in the political indicator; 66 to 162 in the economic indicator; 135 to 165 in the legislative indicator and 136 to 169 in the social indicator and 31 to 97 in the security indicator.

“How do we improve all this,” the PM questioned, reiterating that he is “all game.” “It has to be corrected. I am ready. I will serve you. We will make funds available for trainings and also roll out short term trainings. You just let me know what has to be done.”

In addition to addressing the pressing issue of press freedom, Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay articulated the crucial symbiotic relationship that must exist between the government and the media, particularly in the realm of information dissemination. Recognizing the pivotal role that the media plays as a conduit of information to the public, the Prime Minister emphasized the need for collaboration and synergy between the two entities.

Highlighting the power of the media to shape public perception and influence discourse, Prime Minister Tobgay underscored the importance of harnessing this influence to advance national priorities. He issued a clarion call for journalists to partner with the government in disseminating crucial information pertaining to economic development, tourism promotion, and other vital sectors.

Acknowledging the inherent credibility and authority wielded by the media, the Prime Minister stressed that the voice of journalists carries significant weight in shaping public opinion. By leveraging this influence in tandem with governmental efforts, he expressed confidence in the collective ability to amplify key messages and mobilize public support for initiatives aimed at enhancing the nation’s prosperity and well-being.

In essence, Prime Minister Tobgay conveyed a message of mutual reliance and collaboration, emphasizing that the government and the media are indispensable partners in the shared endeavor of nation-building. Through open dialogue, transparency, and concerted action, he envisioned a harmonious relationship wherein the collective strength of both entities is harnessed to propel Bhutan towards a brighter and more prosperous future.

Speaking about Reporters without Borders again, the PM said, he will work with the Bhutanese media. “Let’s hear from reporters without borders. And tell me what needs to be done,” the PM reiterated.

Amidst the above, the event also presented a poignant opportunity to pay homage to the invaluable contributions of Bhutanese journalists representing a rich tapestry of diverse fields within the media landscape. From investigative reporting to cultural commentary, their tireless dedication and commitment to truth have enriched the fabric of Bhutanese society, shaping public discourse and fostering greater understanding.

By Ugyen Tenzin, Thimphu