As the processes leading up to the elections are gathering pace, there is the real danger of inviting unnecessary disruptions in our society. Giving fecund grounds to such eventualities could cast a long and dark shadow over the culture of democratic governance that we have been trying so hard to nurture. Worse, if we allow divisive politics to sink in by not taking even a blind bit of notice to unhealthy interventions from inside and abroad, it will be the nation’s cohesive spirit that will take a severe beating.
While politicians are busy wooing voters in the villages with their lofty and often unrealistic promises, party supporters have taken to the social media. This is where things can get dirty. As we inch closer to the primary round, we are witnessing unprecedented proliferation of social media users behind the mask doing the promotional jobs. That’s all fine. But the problem arises when individuals behind the veil of anonymity come in conflict with the laws of the nation as they engage themselves in the supporting and promoting a certain political party or candidate.
Here are some things that we as citizens have to know and should be ready to stand the racket for our actions:
The Office of Media Arbitrator (OMA) has announced that it would monitor all media coverage, including social media during the election period to ensure free and fair elections. Third party election advertising or any political advertising in print, broadcast or online on behalf of a political party or a candidate, OMA has said, will be prohibited if run by any individual other than a registered member of a political party or candidate or their election representative with the purpose of promoting or opposing, directly or indirectly, a political party or candidate contesting in an election. Further to this, OMA has cautioned social media users to refrain from using anonymous identity or fake addresses or carry out activity or post content that may adversely affect or unduly benefit the electoral prospects of a candidate.
According to Election Commission of Bhutan’s Social Media Rules and Regulations 2018: “No individual shall communicate/transmit/post hate messages or any content with intent to defame or reduce the electoral chances of an opposing contestant or political party.” And, according to the Penal Code of Bhutan, a person is guilty of the offence of sedition if he or she undermines the security, unity, integrity, or sovereignty of the nation by creating animosity and disaffection among the people.
It is, therefore, imperative that we are full aware of what stink our individual actions can cause, particularly at this time of nation’s historic journey. Never must we give rein to divisive politics and hate messages no matter where they come from. It is the responsibility of each and every Bhutanese to report such crimes. But, more importantly, the authorities with the mandate to address such problems in our society cannot put the matter on the long finger.