During the 31st Meet the Press on June 23, 2017, the Prime Minister (PM) Dasho Tshering Tobgay, said that Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) is all out sensationalizing issues through press releases. The answer came in the wake of DNT’s press release and statements in Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS), where DNT said that the government’s Fiscal Incentives were unconstitutional and called for the resignation of the Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
“DNT has no presence in the parliament. Yet now and then they issue press releases,” the Prime Minister said, adding that if the issues raised are for national interests, it is fine. However, the PM said DNT does not comprehended or understand issues of national interest and that the press releases are “desperate” moves to inform the people that DNT is still alive. Going further, the PM said that even if DNT understood issues, the party does not care as their motive is to just be seen and heard. “I think that motivation is wrong,” PM said.
Additionally, the PM said that the timing of the press release was well planned as it came in the aftermath of former Anti Corruption Commission’s (ACC) Chairperson, Dasho Neten Zangmo joining Bhutan Kuenyam Party (BKP). As the entire nation and especially the media were fully covering Dasho Neten’s story, DNT was very desperate to be heard and seen.
Defining DNT’s call for the resignation as outrageous, the PM said that he “tried not to respond” as he was definite that “it is a political move”. The PM reminded the media about a press release on Bhutan’s debt by DNT about a month ago. “DNT issued a press release called ‘Debt fear is real’ and as soon as government replied they were quite,” the PM said. .
The PM said that if DNT had done their homework and understood the fundamentals of the economy and structure of the debt, they would not have raised the issue.
“On the matter of central school, DNT took the picture of Rangtse School of my constituency and explained about the poor living condition and facilities,” the PM said, adding that the school is not a government boarding school and the picture that they took was of informal boarding school. The PM also said Rangtse School, Haa is in the Amochu valley and it is as warm as Punakha.
He said this is precisely why they had started central school because the children were building sheds and shacks and living in unacceptable conditions and DNT has sensationalized the issue.
“We had responded why central school are crucial and to address such problems and the DNT was celebrating that I had responded to their press release,” he said, adding that the press releases seems to have only one purpose- to get the government’s attention/ response.
Saying it is politics of the worse order, the PM said: “Yes, as we approach election but not now, we have more than one year to go,” he said. “Let’s getting into politics move before seven-six months of the election,” he added.
From another side, Education minister, Norbu Wangchuk, said that in the press freedom ranking, Norway, Sweden and Finland tops. However, he said that even in these countries, if the media or anyone walks into school premises, they will have to get due permission at least from the principal and also have to submit who they are going to interview, on what and how.
In Bhutan, Lyonpo said that any media can just walk in with a camera, pen and a paper, go into school premises and hostels; take recording, photos and interview with teachers and students without any permission.
“This is the level of media freedom that we enjoy in our country,” he said, adding that nowhere in the world, media would enjoy access to information easily as it can be done in Bhutan.
Meanwhile DNT’s Tenzin Lekphell said that they will respond, through a press release.