Election coverage in remote places almost nil, says ECB
R eturning officers (RO) reported that the media coverage of recent local government (LG) elections in remote places was almost non-existent or the stories were inaccurate. The media were reportedly a hindrance to the election officials in the field.
That is what the Election Commission of Bhutan’s (ECB) shared with the media during a meeting on 9 November in Thimphu.
The second LG election was successfully conducted in all the dzongkhags. However, it was not without challenges to the ROs and reporters.
New issues and challenges were identified after every major election. The officials of ECB said it the meeting was called to resolve the issues and to ensure that no same issues were encountered in the next election. “Some of the issues caused by the media and those involved in the elections,” said an official, adding that it ultimately helps the ECB to conduct better elections.
The issues and challenges were reported to the ECB in learning from experience program.
The journalists who covered the election said it was difficult to get accurate information since the ROs were not willing to provide information.
Tashi Dema, a senior reporter with Kuensel, said, “If the media quoted them wrongly, they should have reported it to the ECB.” She added that it was the responsibility of media to inform the
nation correctly. “If one has quoted them wrongly and election officials don’t give information to all the media personnel, it is totally unfair,” she said.
Tempa Wangdi, another reporter from Kuensel, said while some ROs were willing to share any information there were others who did not want to deal with the media at all.
He suggested that the ECB frame guidelines for ROs for dissemination of information to the media in the interest of democracy. He said it would be helpful for reporters if ECB could conduct refresher’s courses on electoral laws before the election coverage since many reporters covering an election would be new.
Election Commissioner Deki Pema said the ECB did not tell officials not to share information to the media. However, she said officials on an election duty might not give halfbaked information until the results were finalized.
Tshering, a reporter from Bhutan Today, said it would be helpful for reporters to reach remote places if the ECB provided some funds for election coverage. He said, “If ECB could allocate funds to the media houses, we can reach remote areas for election coverage.”
Learning from experience program is conducted after every major election to find out the issues and challenges faced during the election period.