The Constitution guarantees the right to all Bhutanese citizens to ask questions. It also guarantees the right of a citizen to not answer a question and journalists are aware that this right goes both ways.
In some cases, such as national security, we can understand if queries cannot be responded to. After all, we are Bhutanese citizens first, journalists second.
The question is whether a public organisation has the right to not be answerable to the media on non-security related issues. A public organisation or someone who holds a public position must respond to questions from the media because we are all involved in the goal to strengthen our country, and for that to happen, all parts of the system must be allowed to carry out their responsibilities.
While media freedom is respected by the government, and journalists can practise their professions without intervention or fear, there are still isolated incidents of concern. This is attributable to individual mind-sets and not the system.
Recently, one of this newspaper’s journalists suffered reprisal for asking a question about an organisation at a Meet the Press session. The powers granted to the seat held by an official of the questioned organisation were used in a non-professional manner to influence the private life of the journalist.
While the journalist, as a private citizen could have accepted the decision of the organisation without even an explanation, an explanation was still provided. It was pointed out that the decision was based on the question asked in the Meet the Press session. The line that separates the professional and private life of a citizen was not respected.
This incident is an isolated one, but could set a precedent. Other journalists could suffer reprisals in their private affairs for their professional conduct.
Recently, it was indicated at another Meet-the-Press session that journalists are being influenced to write stories. We assure our readers that despite such occasional experiences, we will continue to bring you news that others may not want printed. We also assure you that there is a check and balance system in place in this newspaper to prevent external influences and conflict of interest, so that we are as objective as possible.
Issues have also been raised concerning some of the editorials of this newspaper the most recent being a survey report that was referred to that said corruption is concentrated at the top decision-making levels and that combatting corruption was viewed by respondents as an uphill task that would mean taking on, besides politicians, judges, bureaucrats and businessmen.
However, while the survey was conducted by Bhutan Transparency Initiative, the onus has now been placed on Kuensel to provide information so that the government may carry out investigations. To our readers we clarify that we cited the findings of the National Corruption Barometer Survey (NCBS) 2016 published by the Bhutan Transparency Initiative.
We assure you, our job will be to continue using such reports and other sources to continue and aid us in our battle to find and root out corruption, at all levels, not just the top-decision making levels and inform the people when we find it.