Ask any Tom, Dick and Harry to deliberate on media and democracy, many would end up drawing a nexus between the two – how one is important for the success or fruition of another; unfortunately without much deeper understanding of the real correlation. Piteous, but true in all aspect.
Seriously, we need to do more than sticking to this mere rhetoric or exhortation if we are serious, as we show to be, towards media development in the country. Rhetoric and feigned desire will not help the country’s indisposed media.
What is apparent now is media, especially the private ones, have their necks deep under water and are fighting the arduous battle waged against them – from government ministries and agencies to media’s own regulatory body, the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA).
Notwithstanding, for a change, it was affirming to hear the Vice President of the People’s Democratic Party Damcho Dorji, at the second political parties’ debate for the 2013 elections Friday, calling for pragmatic efforts from the government to support the private media and not just lip service, and how existence of media, that are majorly government-owned, could spell doom for country’s democracy in the future.
Indubitably, such a scenario may not materialize at the moment but we cannot rule out such possibility either.
The fact of the matter is that it’s not a good time for most media houses in the country. While the government has severed its advertisement budget on one side, BICMA, which is supposed to be a media regulatory body, on the other is bent on stifling the already sick private media houses.
Perhaps, ignorant of how media functions in a society, BICMA’s present role has revolved around handing over authoritative and high-handed letters to media in Bhutan. While also evoking doubts whether it is abreast of the present media scenario, it is also perhaps one of the only media organizations that has never have had close interaction with the media hitherto. And we don’t see it happening any sooner either.
Even some media professionals, the new as well as the old, are oblivious as well on how BICMA carries out its responsibilities; duties as an organization which is supposed to facilitate the media by delving into their problem, as an organization which is supposed to strengthen the fourth arm of the government.
It’ just the contrary that is happening now. And for the time being, we could only contemplate what the first Chief-Editor of Bhutan Times wrote in its editorial almost six years back, on May 20, 2007, that, “…….That if there is anyone who will kill media in Bhutan, it will be BICMA”.