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That the people shall be informed

Ten years ago today, Kuensel went daily, publishing six editions a week.

The anniversary comes at a time when the paper is blamed for almost everything. To those who are in solidarity with us, we thank you. To our critics, we value your views.

When Kuensel decided to go daily, many said the move was suicidal. It was, in many ways. The number of editions increased; the news team did not. But for us, it was a calling. We had elected our first government and Bhutan had stepped into a new era. It was time to keep pace with change. 

From informing the nation, first through erratic government bulletins to weekly and bi-weekly editions, Kuensel took up a responsibility to inform the people daily. The intention was never to kill our competitors.

Today, we look back to see how far we have come. As a democracy, a lot has changed for Kuensel. A lot has not. The news team that sent the first daily edition to print has reduced to a handful today. A new generation of journalists joined the team to continue the mandate that began more than 50 years ago – to document and tell the stories of a changing Bhutan. So, as an institution, Kuensel is old. As a newsroom, it is as young as any other media house in the country.

For those who still misunderstand Kuensel’s status, we take this occasion to set the records right. The national daily is state-owned, not government-owned. In a democracy, this difference is significant. Elected governments do not own Kuensel, nor does the finance ministry, which has 51 percent stake in the company.

A royal decree in 1992 delinked Kuensel from the government. It was a new challenge for the national print media. In 1998, Kuensel stopped receiving government subsidy and had to sustain on its own. We pay full taxes and duties to even buy pool vehicles. We are excluded from the printing subsidy granted to others.

In 2006, Kuensel divested of 49 percent of its shares to the public and is now the only SOE listed on the stock exchange. In the last 12 years, we contributed Nu 125 million in taxes and dividends to the government coffer.

Our social mandate is expensive and worries our shareholders. We thank them for their patience.  They know that some of our ventures are unprofitable, but important nonetheless. Newspapers are not making money. But we managed to keep the paper alive by diversifying into other small businesses, including selling scrap.

The story of Kuensel is the story of Bhutan. As Bhutan’s national newspaper, Kuensel belongs to the people of Bhutan. We said this when the paper was delinked. As Kuensel marks 10 years of its daily edition, we say it again.

We hurt people, lost friends and made some angry while fulfilling our responsibility. We report on all sections of the society and our responsibility to inform them mandates us to ask questions and question answers. It is this grave responsibility – to report without fear or favour and to inform responsibly that keeps the team up late into the night everyday.

When we went daily, we accepted that the challenge we were taking up was not an easy one and that we could err. We have our shortcomings and we know that we have much to learn. 

Our readers have helped us grow and we will continue to tell stories that matter to the people and the country.

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