Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The topic was the Role of Media in a GNH society and the intent was to have a frank and forceful brainstorming session to discuss, debate and perhaps find an agreeable junction where everyone can look left and right and perhaps find a wholesome path if not a holistic highway
Jurmi Chhowing - Paro
The two-day marathon of a talkathon between the MoIC, DoIM, BICMA and representatives from the Bhutan Media Foundation, the Royal Office for Media, editors and management heads from various media houses, together with three esteemed gentlemen from abroad, passed around and pounded a topic that is at once inspirational yet elusive. The setting itself could not have been more befitting; a resort that is an epitome of Bhutanese architectural beauty serving the latest jazz in modern hospitality and comfort. In a way, the high end quaint resort of Zhiwaling in Paro reflected the dilemma facing the changing Bhutanese scenario and context in terms of balancing what is a wholesome cultural values and norms and the modern manifestation of a subject that is at once metaphysical, philosophical, inspirational and yet as elusive as the pot of gold at the butt of the rainbow.
The brainstorming workshop was aptly named – what role should media play in a GNH society? And the workshop wasn’t called a workshop, nor was it referred as a seminar, conference, symposium etc. It was simply called ‘brainstorming’ and the storms and the brains were vigorously used, argued, discussed, debated and put under the microscope, with a magnifying glass for added measure and sharper focus.
The MoIC initiated brainstorming did result in fruitful exchanges, with criticisms aplenty, gracious acceptance and clear clarifications of some pending matters that have been the bone of contention between regulatory bodies and the media houses. The need to address the many issues confronting not just society, but the media in particular and the need for media houses to keep abreast of changes with that GNH moral compass as constant as the Northern Star was highlighted. In other words, trust and confidence has been bestowed both ways to encourage accountability and transparency.
Notwithstanding the vagaries of such a vague as well as an enlightening way of approaching life and its daily rut, there was no denying the power and the presence of such an ideal; whether it be philosophical, pragmatic or preachy, there was no denying the depth of the subject and the infinite concepts that it can give birth to. In order to avoid that romantic trap, specific issues were discussed that can be doable and tangible.
Dasho Kinley Dorji, the MoIC Secretary, said learning to learn and knowing that process would be a lifelong journey with no definitive arrival at some GNH destination, and perhaps the journey itself should be the focus. The question was specifically in regard to media and the potential role it could play in essaying that sense of uniqueness. Legislation and policies that could foster desirable practices in terms of informing the public was one among many probable theories. The others were journalistic codes of conduct, ethics, emerging and converging trends such as electronic dissemination of news, television and radio, the internet, films and the umpteen portals of information on offer and the need to distill and filter that wilderness in as wholesome a manner as possible.
Some variables discussed with a GNH compass but in urgent need of guidelines were legal and policy framework; updating current acts, defamation, privacy, broadcast charter, code of ethics, self-censorship, sustainability, the role of government, regulator, media council, journalists association, infrastructure, education for media professionals, advertisement, content. In new media or social media the dominance of online gaming, gaming parlors, news agencies going electronic independence of media, freedom of expression, the right to information, media watchdogs, commitment from media houses on training, policy, ethics, education on the constitution and translating GNH into activities or practices were some of the salient topics of engaged discussion.
The bottom-line was the engaging factor, in that media and policy-makers sat together in one room with a genuine interest in resolving conflicts, forging understanding of each other’s roles, strengths and limitations, clearing doubts and seeking clarifications wherever necessary and to recognize the fact that Bhutan is a unique nation and that mutual benefit and similarity far outweighed differences. Points made will be documented in coming out with a draft that takes every workable variable into account and create a more organized and wholesome look and practice for the media and its regulators.
The brainstorming did have one undeniable dent: everyone walked out a little richer and a tad confused. “Perhaps this is how life basically works” was all my colleague had to say after hearing everyone out for fifty four hours.