Right versus responsibility

Social media has changed the way how we give friends updates, share pictures and reconnect.

It has quickly become a popular and efficient way to keep in touch and provided people with a platform to communicate information in a way that they may otherwise never have considered. But what most users of Facebook and Twitter are completely unaware of are the dangers of the public nature of this technology.

While posting information on Facebook or Twitter, we often become bolder behind a screen and make statements that we would never say in person. We take for granted and make statement or post information not knowing that it may provide the basis for a lawsuit too.

We saw one such lawsuit last week, where the Thimphu dzongkhag court sentenced Sangay Tsheltrim, Mr Bhutan 2017, to three months in prison for defamation and harassment.

The case first emerged after Sangay Tsheltrim went live on Facebook and alleged that his performance in the ninth World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship in Mongolia that year was turned over by politics in the federation.

He alleged Bhutan Bodybuilding and Weightlifting Federation and a proprietor of a private school in Thimphu of corruption and colluding and made personal remarks against the proprietor on Facebook live streaming on October 10, 2017. These alleged statements then spread swiftly across and among social networks with many angry social media users making unnecessary comments targeted at the victimโ€™s reputation and social standing.

There is no denying that we resort to Facebook today while sharing anything we feel so. However, what we donโ€™t realize is that we cannot malign people and institutions on our whims. Our claims or statements must be backed up by evidences. Instead of approaching concerned authorities, we often resort to Facebook today and it is from there we have no control of the things we post. 

And most often we pompously argue that we are exercising our right to freedom of speech, opinion and expression, as mentioned in section 2 of Article 7 of the Constitution, whenever we find ourselves in trouble because of our social media post, but what we tend to forget is that right comes with responsibility too. Section 5 of Article 8 of the Constitution, for example, specifies that a Bhutanese citizen also has the responsibility not to intrude on otherโ€™s privacy and affect their reputation.

However, another positive development that has come out of the case is with the Thimphu dzongkhag court directing the recently established Media Council to frame regulations and guidelines in line with section 71 of Chapter 4 of the Bhutan Information, Communications and Media Act of Bhutan 2018.

According to the court, many post comments on use social media without analyzing the repercussions. Relevant organizations have also not conducted any awareness, which led to the misuse of media that caused problems in the society.

Itโ€™s, therefore, important to understand that we cannot just post anything just because we have the power to type it. We must take responsibility of the content we post on Facebook and Twitter. We must know that posting something negative or mean-spirited may not be illegal or subject to a lawsuit, but our freedom becomes legally limited when our post infringes on the rights of another, constitutes hate speech and is defamatory.