Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = 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 limited in Bhutan despite some improvements in 2006. The Bhutan Information, Communications, and Media Act, passed in July, is designed to regulate the information, communications, and media industries. However, many observers have expressed concern that the law, which is concerned primarily with technological specifics, licensing, and ownership, provides no specific protections for journalists and does not guarantee freedom of information, although it does contain general provisions for freedom of expression and of the press. Under the 1992 National Security Act, any criticism of King Jigme Singye Wangchuk and Bhutan’s political system is prohibited.
Physical attacks on the press in Bhutan are rare, and there were no reported cases of this occurring in 2006. Bhutan’s main print publication, the state-owned biweekly Kuensel—now funded entirely by 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 critical of the government. In 2005, Kuensel announced plans to open another printing press in Tashingang so that it could improve its distribution network. Two new private weekly newspapers, the Bhutan Times and Bhutan Observer, were launched in April and June, respectively. Although the papers have published mainly pro-government articles, with the Times particularly supportive of the government stance toward refugees in Nepal, both have occasionally been critical of the government. A monthly periodical, Bhutan Now, started publishing in November.
State-owned broadcast media, which consist of a radio and a television station operated by the Bhutan Broadcasting Service, carry broadly pro-government programming and do not air opposition positions and statements. In September, Kuzoo FM 90, Bhutan’s first private radio station, began operations. There are no private television broadcasters, but cable television services carry uncensored foreign programming. In 2005, 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 2005—and the daily online editions of several print publications provide somewhat livelier forums for discussion and debate. Nonetheless, owing to infrastructure and financial limitations, less than 4 percent of the population is able to access this new medium.