Bhutan media group seeks int’l support

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Refugees reading the copies of The Bhutan Reporter monthly. Photo/TP Mishra
Refugees reading the copies of The Bhutan Reporter monthly. Photo/TP Mishra

A media support group, run by Bhutanese journalists living in exile, is looking for international support in order to continue to develop its media training programmes and to campaign for media freedom in the region.

The Media Network Bhutan (MNB), run entirely by volunteers, is approaching its third anniversary. It claims its training courses have helped hundreds of Bhutanese journalists living in the refugee camps in Nepal.

The aim now is to bring together the overseas Bhutanese refugee communities that have been resettled in the West in order to strengthen their media skills and to mobilise them in a campaign for media freedom within Bhutan. 

Self help in the refugee camps

The MNB grew out of the work being carried out by a small group of Bhutanese journalists living in the refugee camps in Nepal. It was formally launched in the Beldangi camp in January 2009.

According to Mona Rath Pokhrel, the General Executive of the MNB, those living in the seven refugee camps were starved of reliable information.

“Our aim was to equip journalists in the refugee community with the tools needed to produce responsible and informative coverage of the issues facing those living in the camps,”

“Our aim was to equip journalists in the refugee community with the tools needed to produce responsible and informative coverage of the issues facing those living in the camps,” he said.

The first event was a 21-day course in journalism basics for 45 young refugee journalists. The training was organised in association with the Bhutan chapter of the Third World Media Network. This was followed up with training in radio journalism, attended by 40 participants.

Funding breakthrough

From left Dawa Durkpa, Indra wati Rai, and Shiva Lal Homagain after  recieving Certificates of Honor provided by YFC,MNB and BGM on 24th Nov. 2007 and seen Jeeten Subba at side a refugee journalist.Photo Mona Rath
From left Dawa Durkpa, Indra Wati Rai, and Shiva Lal Homagain with their journalism training certificates – Photo Mona Rath Pokhrel

The MNB then partnered with the Youth Friendly Center (YFC), a youth programme funded by the UNHCR (the United Nations refugee agency), in setting up a writing course attracting 100 existing and budding journalists from the Bhutanese refugee community.

As more and more journalists were seen to have benefited from the course, the MNB decided to award some of the brightest and best in recognition of their services to the community; people whose work would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

In its first year, the MNB trained more than 200 Bhutanese refugee journalists. To mark its first anniversary, the organisation staged a conference entitled ‘The Media and Bhutanese Refugees’ called to assess the impact of their work so far and decide how it should develop.

As part of its media freedom work, the MNB has teamed up with the Bhutan Press Union (BPU), the Association of Press Freedom Activities (APFA) and the Third World Media Network (TWMN-Bhutan chapter), in a joint effort to build links with Bhutanese media organisations inside the country.

Building an international network

The MNB has appointed executives in the seven resettlement countries of the USA, Canada, Norway, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand, as well as in Nepal. A committee is also being set up in Bhutan, but the MNB says that branch will be working secretly to avoid government detection; Bhutan does not encourage any association between refugees and those living in the country.

Two websites are currently being registered to act as discussion forums for those Bhutanese living in exile, those working to improve the standards of journalism within the refugee community, and those campaigning for media freedom within the country.

The group’s work has not been without incident. Last month, Karna Bahadur Kharka, a Bhutanese social activist, who had been an inspiration to the team running the MNB, was killed by a so-far unidentified group.

The MNB immediately called for government action to find those responsible and bring them to justice, and in doing so thrust the organisation into the forefront of the campaign for media freedom.

According to Pokhrel, the next development is to secure international support for the organisation’s work.

“Our long-term goal and vision is to work to ensure a strong media in Bhutan and support the Bhutanese media in exile.

“However, we are all volunteers and our team is working part-time to achieve these ends. In order to campaign at the highest level we need international assistance and recognition,”

“However, we are all volunteers and our team is working part-time to achieve these ends. In order to campaign at the highest level we need international assistance and recognition,” he said.

If such support is forthcoming, Pokhrel says the MNB is ready to extend its work in the three areas on which it is focussing:  

  1. building the capacity of Bhutanese journalists living in exile
  2. campaigning for media freedom in Bhutan
  3. bringing together the Bhutanese exile community and enabling a global debate about freedom of expression in the country.Any international media support groups interested in contacting the MNB can do so via this site’s contact us form. Comments can also be added to this article by using the comment form below.Source: Media Helping Media, UK.

26644 COMMENTS

  1. Congratulation on such achievements.
    I hope there will be partnership with all the media in exile irrespective of who runs what website.
    I am bit worried by the time we have spend few years in the TCS, we have 20 or more media organisations all over. I am worried that the media will not divide people based on websites which happened in Nepal in forming parties and other organisations.
    There may be challenges to show to the world who is our peak media body and who represents what??
    Simple reason the launch of new website, bhutanusa.com and nepali website. There may be more on the line. Thus,representing all needs involving all.
    It would be good to know the structure of this launch.. Globally, regionally, and country wise.. so that community is well informed of such noble ideas and deeds.
    All the best
    Parsu

  2. Hi editor
    I’m eager to know that the media is looking for support for the elaboration of it. I hope it will get good support because many readers of this paper are earning in advance counties these days and hope many Bhutanese in foreign countries will be eager to support these media. And i m one of them.
    But I want to know the all the members of central comettee. Is it possible to give this information to me and all those who are eager to know and support this media ? I hope to get the reply soon please

    thanks
    Devicharan Adhikari
    Beldangi iii Sector A/3 Hut No 70
    Now in Lexington, Kentucky, USA