Bhutan | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Freedom of expression and of the press, as well as media diversity, continue to be somewhat restricted in Bhutan. In the absence of a constitution or clearly defined legislation concerning the operation of the media, the legal environment for the press remains opaque. Under the 1992 National Security Act any criticism of King Jigme Singye Wangchuk and Bhutan's political system is prohibited.

Bhutan's only regular publication, Kuensel-funded in 2005 entirely by independent advertising and subscription revenues-generally reports news that puts the kingdom in a favorable light but has increasingly been highlighting societal problems and carrying stories that are critical of the government. In February, Kuensel switched to a biweekly format and plans to open another printing press in Tashingang so that it can improve its distribution network.

The broadcast media, which consist of a radio and a television station, both owned and operated by the state-run Bhutan Broadcasting Service, do not carry opposition positions and statements. Cable television services carry uncensored foreign programming and thrive in some areas but are hampered by a high sales tax and the absence of broadcasting legislation. In March, in response to concerns voiced by authorities as well as by members of the public, the Association of Private Cable Operators resolved to limit cable access to 30 channels, with a complete ban on 12 music and other channels that provided "controversial" content such as wrestling. Internet access is growing and is unrestricted-two new internet service providers were licensed during the year-and the online edition of Kuensel provides a somewhat livelier forum for discussion and debate.