Bhutan | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Bhutan

Bhutan

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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

61

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

23

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

19

Freedom of expression and of the press, as well as media diversity, continued to be limited in Bhutan in 2007, despite some improvements during the previous year. The Bhutan Information, Communications, and Media Act, passed in July 2006, was designed to regulate these industries and contains general provisions for freedom of expression and of the press. However, many observers have expressed concerns that it does not provide adequate protection for journalists or guarantee freedom of information. The 1992 National Security Act prohibits criticism of the king and the political system.

Physical attacks on the press in Bhutan are rare, and there were no reported cases of attacks occurring in 2007. 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. According to the U.S. State Department, following a number of editorials critical of a proposal to impose restrictions on advertising, the government abandoned the plan in May 2007. In 2006, two private newspapers began operating, Bhutan Times and Bhutan Observer, which occasionally publish articles critical of the government in spite of their generally progovernment content. In November 2006, Bhutan Now, a monthly periodical, was launched. State-owned broadcast media, which consist of a radio and a television station operated by the Bhutan Broadcasting Service, carry broadly progovernment programming and do not air opposition positions and statements. The July 2006 Media Act led to the establishment of two independent radio stations, and in April 2007, another private radio station, Radio Valley FM, began broadcasting. There are no private television broadcasters, but cable television services carry uncensored foreign programming, albeit with bans on channels that provide “controversial content” as well as high sales taxes and regulatory obstacles that render costs prohibitive for many citizens.

The internet is gaining use in Bhutan but was accessed by less than 4 percent of the population in 2007. The government occasionally restricts certain websites considered to be offensive to the government or pornographic. In June 2007, authorities blocked the Bhutan Times website for approximately two months owing to antigovernment comments. According to the International Federation of Journalists, authorities also blocked the website of the now defunct Bhutan News website in 2007 following its critical coverage of the government.