Bhutan’s first privately-owned newspaper made its appearance in the country in 2006. Controlled by a new press law, this cautious media development is an encouraging sign, even if most news remains highly favourable to the authorities.
The kingdom’s first privately-owned newspaper the Bhutan Times, was first published in April. At his inauguration, Prime Minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup said that press freedom could only be achieved with journalists showing responsibility. On its first front page, Bhutan Times, carried an article setting out the vision for democratic transition of Prince Jigme Kesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who is due to accede to the throne in 2008.
Despite King Jigme Wangchuck’s policy of openness, including the introduction of universal suffrage, the monarchy makes few allowances for pluralist news. Almost all the media, including the weekly Kuensel and BBS radio and television are controlled by the state. The owners of televisions connected to the three cable operators can get Indian and others international channels. The only criticism of the monarch’s policies can be found on discussion forums on the website kuenselonline.com. Internet-users sometimes raise the thorny question of the tens of thousands of Bhutanese refugees, particularly from the Lhotshampa minority, who are being held in camps in Nepal after being expelled from the kingdom at the beginning of the 1990s.