Private media gagged

Things are getting worse each day for the private media in the country. Advertisement has become a rarity for months now. Employees are being laid off to cut cost. Some are not even paid for months. It’s as if like everyone is waiting for the first paper to fold.

Already stuck in a financial quagmire, the death of the private media seems inevitable now. The finance ministry has already issued a circular on June 11 stating that government agencies are to publish advertisements in selected medium and not in all the papers at the same time.

And the recent notification from the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has shocked the private media. It has declared that it will, henceforth, publish advertisements or notifications related to elections and the ECB only in Kuensel, BBS TV, Kuzoo FM Radio.

Similarly, other government agencies have also started taking a similar stand following directives from the finance ministry.

Whatever said and done, the days of the private media are getting numbered. And the government seems to be least concerned about this plight.

It is apparent now that the government is out to kill the private newspapers in the country. It is sad but indubitably true.

Clamping down on the media has begun. We have all the reasons to believe.When free speech is never free

Going by the recent events, even the circular issued by the information and communication ministry directing its agencies and departments not to give advertisements to ‘The Bhutanese’ wasn’t just mere miscommunication.

It was obviously targeted to gag the paper for the stories that were damaging or tarnishing the government’s image.

Newspapers that are critical in their new coverage are targeted, subtly though, by severing their very lifeline – advertisement. This is what is happening.  Sad but a heavy price too.

Now almost all of the ten ministries have taken the same stand when it comes to rendering advertisements to private media in the country.

But what we can’t fathom is which those selected medium are? And how is it selected? The system of selection is still vague. The whole thing has been devised in such way that only the selected ones benefit and flourish.

What is obvious from this move is that private newspapers are targeted. They are subtly asked to fold.

The government has repeatedly averred to support the media. And the role of media in ensuring a vibrant democracy has almost become a banality. The talks to develop media are mere rhetoric or lip service. Or is it just confined to some selected ones?

It’s just not the private media that are in dangers, even the infant democracy of Bhutan is at stake. For now, the worst is waiting to happen.

[August 19,2012] 

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