Business Bhutan - - Editorial - Please send your opin­ions and com­men­taries to busi­ness­b­ P.O BOX 1190 CHANGZAMTOK, THIM­PHU

Re­porters with­out Bor­ders recorded Bhutan climb­ing 10 places this year com­pared to 2016 in the World Press Free­dom In­dex, rank­ing 84th among 180 coun­tries.

Does this mean that press free­dom in Bhutan has ac­tu­ally made the prover­bial jump? In the re­cent Jour­nal­ists’ Awards, the Prime Min­is­ter said there were many cri­tiques on the is­sue in so­cial me­dia, with even mem­bers of the me­dia fra­ter­nity de­nounc­ing that such progress has oc­curred. How­ever, he said it is not the state of me­dia or the me­dia land­scape that has been ranked but the “free­dom” as­pect of jour­nal­ists.

Me­dia land­scape, he said, in­cludes sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues, low read­er­ship, lack of rev­enue gen­er­a­tion and so on. But are not th­ese the very fac­tors that af­fect a jour­nal­ist’s free­dom? This means that the me­dia land­scape di­rectly or in­di­rectly shapes press free­dom, and if the me­dia land­scape im­proves, so does press free­dom, and con­versely, if the me­dia land­scape de­te­ri­o­rates, press free­dom would grad­u­ally cease to ex­ist.

Of course, press free­dom would also in­clude a jour­nal­ist’s right to re­port on is­sues, which if fa­cil­i­tated by eas­ier ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and less bu­reau­cratic has­sles while ob­tain­ing it, plus safety of the jour­nal­ist, would make for a more vi­brant and healthy me­dia.

Com­pared to some parts of the world like Afghanistan, Egypt, China, Viet­nam, Pak­istan, the Philip­pines, Bangladesh, and North Korea, we are do­ing great. But why com­pare our­selves to the worst when we can con­stantly do bet­ter, set the bench­mark higher, by com­par­ing our­selves to the best like Nor­way and Swe­den? Be­cause for that mat­ter, there are two ways to look at it: ei­ther press free­dom in the coun­try has im­proved or that in the rest of the coun­tries has de­te­ri­o­rated.

What­ever one may say, it is a fact that Bhutanese me­dia houses are in dis­mal shape: ex­pe­ri­enced jour­nal­ists are leav­ing for greener pas­tures, salaries are not paid on time if at all, and younger jour­nal­ists do not have men­tors or role mod­els to look up to. Over­all, me­dia mo­rale is in dol­drums.

And just be­cause a re­port gives us a bet­ter rank­ing than the pre­vi­ous year does not mean ground re­al­i­ties have or will sud­denly change. There has to be con­stant sup­port, ef­fort and in­cen­tives from au­thor­i­ties such as the govern­ment and man­age­ment of me­dia houses.

A lot of hard work, ded­i­ca­tion, sac­ri­fice, pas­sion and some­times ig­nominy go into mak­ing some of the finest jour­nal­ists. If the vet­er­ans are leav­ing, younger jour­nal­ists must fill up their place but ide­ally they should be bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous lot.

And for this, not only do we need jour­nal­ists who will be happy to do their av­er­age bit and take home a pay check but who will prove that jour­nal­ism is in­deed a call­ing, a noble pro­fes­sion.

At the me­dia awards, the most promis­ing jour­nal­ist award of the year went to a young man who rode his “rick­ety” bi­cy­cle to work and re­port­ing ev­ery day. De­spite tough cir­cum­stances, here was a jour­nal­ist who worked hard and had the tenac­ity to prove that your cir­cum­stances do not make you, your at­ti­tude does.

Bhutan has im­proved in press free­dom rank­ing but this is not enough. We def­i­nitely need to do more. For the jour­nal­ists who are driven by pas­sion for their vo­ca­tion, for the jour­nal­ists who con­tinue to hold on de­spite the pain and hur­dles. And for those who are in sheer love with their pro­fes­sion.

The best jour­nal­ists have of­ten worked in the most ad­verse cir­cum­stances, yet they per­se­vered and came out of their ex­pe­ri­ence glow­ing and glo­ri­ous. Jour­nal­ists need to be mo­ti­vated in­trin­si­cally more than by the ex­ter­nals.

This said, we can never un­der­es­ti­mate the power of a con­ducive work­ing en­vi­ron­ment, ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion, bet­ter pay, and val­i­da­tion.

Let us hope that me­dia in the coun­try while car­ry­ing out its du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties will do so not only driven by great pas­sion and am­bi­tion, but that the au­thor­i­ties and so­ci­ety will also sup­port it in ful­fill­ing its man­dates.

This is be­cause a whole­some, vi­brant, func­tional me­dia is a re­flec­tion of the so­ci­ety and vice versa. And we need both.

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