Thursday, 19 April 2012

Bhutan - Journalism’s onus and curse

If engendering a GNH-based democracy is a process, so is ethical journalism.
It is not something that can be achieved, but a goal, a standard to strive for.

It is like reaching the moon, each time we stretch out for the stars, but the goal is to not settle for that.

Therein lies the beauty of it all.

It is a pursuit, like happiness, and at various individual levels.

The information and communication secretary at the ethics conference yesterday in Thimphu said, it was the state’s responsibility to create an environment conducive for its citizens to pursue happiness.

If only they felt the same about the functioning of the Bhutanese media, particularly at a time when the whole system seems to be working against it.

A modicum of transparency within the bureaucracy is all that is required to foster that enabling environment.

But why that transparency, if it is for the purpose of reflecting a ministry and the various agencies under it in negative light?

As public figures and elected representatives, public scrutiny is a part and parcel of life, and the media plays a role of exposing instances of corruption, or should there be renege on election promises.

There is, however, no arguing if reporters misquote people, invade their privacy, defame them, publish unreliable information, are biased and play up stories, for they sit at the core of ethical journalism.

Worse still, if news outlets refuse to run clarifications and letters following errors.

Ethics and professionalism, the secretary also said, were related.

If that is true, then most news media outlets lack ethics, for most of them are not necessarily run by people trained in the profession, and thus not professionals.

In that case, the weaker the news media outlets are, for lack of professionals, the greater the chances for ethics to suffer.

In that case, training people in the trait of journalism is a must, because it is how we report, and what we report, and how we tell stories that are indicative of the principles we stand for as individuals, and ethics as an organisation.

That, however, does not seem all that likely, for media organisations do not want to invest in building human resources, institutions established to help facilitate training of reporters are sitting on the funds, and reporters do not consider a training as one, if it does not entail having their baggage tagged.

We need to show ethical journalism, by building our credibility with our readers, with our understanding that everyone has opinions of their own of what is acceptable and not in our society.

In journalism, as in life, it is near impossible to please everyone.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Bhutan - In the shadow of the GNH sun

By all accounts, the high level meeting on happiness and well being, convened by the Bhutanese government last week at the UN headquarters in New York, to define a new economic paradigm for the global community was a landmark beginning.

The Bhutanese delegation reportedly felt overwhelmed by the response, and intimidated by the expectations of the global community.

To be able to influence the global community towards a new economic model that is more sustainable, holistic, inclusive, and equitable takes some doing, and Bhutan has done that. It should be a matter of pride for every Bhutanese.

At home though, the mood has been anything but happy, with critics and skeptics labelling the meeting as a waste of time and resources. The Indian Rupee situation has not helped either, with it basically blanking out everything else, exposing some structural weaknesses, and leading to a good deal of discourse on what should be done to be more financially secure.

But critics and skeptics are, and rightfully so, pointing to the problems facing this country of GNH, and questioning why so little attention is being paid to them by leaders and decision makers. These outpourings could be interpreted as citizens in a democratic Bhutan, exercising their right to expression, even if there is nothing good to say; instead of just saying the politically correct thing, without really meaning it.

GNH may have taken birth in Bhutan, but most agree, including the leaders, that Bhutan is far from being a GNH country. There is so much more to do, because the business of happiness is a serious one.

Yet, as much as the world needs a new economic paradigm Bhutan also needs as much the GNH vision to keep it from going off course because there are indications that it just might.

While the world’s greed in ravishing the planet is scoffed at, here citizens are morphing from needy to greedy consumers. That is why the GNH vision is so relevant to Bhutan and her citizens.

In last week’s meeting, the global community identified four dimensions for the new economy: wellbeing and happiness; ecological sustainability; fair distribution; and efficient use of increasingly scarce resources.

With Bhutan to take the lead on further expanding the basic construct of the new economy, there is much to do to put wellbeing and happiness at the centre of development, not only for the global community, but also and especially at home.