Sunday, June 1, 2014

Media - Democracy and Bhutan.

Media and Bhutan.

The ministries receive valuable feedback and the people’s objectives which work as a future guidance for them to make necessary changes in their programs. In a country like Bhutan where a large number of people are illiterate with poverty rate of 12% and lack the ability to voice their problems on some platform which can be taken knowledge of, media itself becomes the voice of the people.
In an age of timeliness and demand for information, the media plays a crucial role in informing the public about politics, campaigns and elections. Additionally, the media helps influence what issues voters should care about in elections and what criteria they should use to evaluate candidates. On March 24, 2008, thousands of Bhutanese voters flooded the polling stations across the country to cast their votes for the first ever parliamentary election.  The shift to democracy had undoubtedly empowered media. What was earlier thought as sensitive issues were now tackled strongly and intelligently. It began disclosing corrupt practices of individuals and organizations, studying government’s plans and policies and keeping track of political moves. Stories were decorated with bold headlines and reliable sources including the high level officials.The mass media constitute the backbone of democracy. They identify problems in our society and serve as a medium for discussion. They are also the watchdogs that we rely on for uncovering errors and wrongdoings by those who have power.

Media and Democracy
Democracy of a country can become successful only if its media plays its positive role otherwise it can never become a successful democracy. The Bhutanese media saw a considerable growth since 1980s with the establishment of BBS and the newspaper Kuensel, and the small information revolution that took place in the 1990s with the introduction of television and the Internet (Dorji & Pek 2006). The country’s first newspaper was established in 1986, radio in the late 1970s and television and the Internet introduced in 1999.  The media is one of the most powerful channels of effective communication. It can make or break individuals, organizations or governments. Today, the prevailing understanding of the role of media in a democracy is to empower people by engaging them in constructive discourses. Media is responsible for holding the government accountable for their actions and keep public well-informed of the plans and policies concerning them. A free and independent press is considered essential for democracy; among others, it acts as independent watchdogs of the political, social, and economic institutions and conjures public interests to be prioritized in government policies (Bennett, Lawrence & Livingston 2007). Journalists claim that media, newspapers in particular, have been playing a very bold role in the democracy unlike before. Bhutanese newspapers today tackle almost every issue related to corruption in the government and private sector, elected leaders and their accountability to individuals, human rights and public policies. The media supplies the political information that voters base their decisions on. Taking the recent election which was held on 31st May and 13 July as evidence, the circumstances like the rupee crunch and gas subsidy had caused an uproar among the general public. Taking advantage of this issues PDP (People Democratic Party) promises to solve the issues which influenced the voters’ decision. The media updated people on nation’s issues and the politicians used it for their benefit.

Role of media in Democracy
The democratic ideals can only be satisfied when all voters are educated and informed to the point where they are able to understand the most important political issues. And this responsibility is given to Media. Most people won’t be Media literate and what is shown and informed will be soaked in, better than the sponge. Election is the key factor in persuasion of Good governance. We cannot afford to make mistakes as that would cost on resources and happiness, most importantly, on the trust towards democracy.
Media’s significant role in democracy are to make people more aware of their rights, aware them about political and social issues, initiate debates on the relevant public issues, draw attention towards institutional failure such as- corruption, preferential treatment, unsympathetic attitudes and general inefficiency of the government machinery and create pressure for improved government performance and efficient delivery of public services extending public accountability. Media also acts as an interface between government and public. It can often be taken as the mirror of the society
 Linsky (1986) found that the media plays a significant and commanding role in democracy and public affairs. He also maintained that the media substantially impacts the formation of political agendas and the performance of political institutions. Graber (1984) commented that “Although the verdict is mixed about the extent of media influence on various political arenas, evidence strongly suggest it is a sizable factor.”

I conclude media and democracy will help each other grow.


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