The role of media in a democracy

I wrote two essays on this topic, both as part of job interviews in different newspapers. One got me the job, one didn’t.

Its amazing how much this issue means to me now, when a year ago, trying to find i job, I had to google up this to write my essay. The google result was intellectual, but not very satisfactory. It lacked connection to Bhutan.

With media and the government exchanging fire lately, the topic is buzzing in my head more than usual.

In my eight months of working as a reporter, I have thought about the role of media in a democracy a lot, and I have thought of them in the Bhutanese context. Because we are in a unique position. Our’s is a democracy that came about in the most unique enviroment, with the most unique leaders and philosophies that have brought us here. We have been given the job of running our country on our own, and the challenge is to run it as well as our kings have. And we should take this seriously. We dont need to look at examples of other countries, we dont need to say ‘but this doesn’t happen in any country’. If a politician tells you, in response to a question about why something doesnt happen here, ‘but no other country in the world does it. you are lucky we do this much.’ say to them, ‘no other country is like ours. in which country did you see democracy being gifted to the poeple by a well loved monarch?’

We must demand different, and better.

A democracy means that the people run the government. Not that people vote their leaders, no. That is secondary. The most important things is that people run their own government.

And every citizen has the right to every piece of information that involves running the country. Every one has to have a say in every policy. If the politicians cannot take criticism for policies that people perceive to be wrong, and it doesn’t matter if its a small population of people that do the criticising, they better leave the job. A politician must be open to all kinds of criticism for every policy that is put on the table. And we don’t want to hear them say ‘you are with the opposition party’, or ‘publish positive feedback sometimes.’ All policies have pros and cons. And we need to beat them all out. sharing cons doesn’t mean that the policy is wrong and should be done away with. It is about finding better solutions.

We need answers. And our politicians are obliged to give them to us. Even if we are going to criticise it. When one of them says ‘No, I don’t have time’, or ‘It is too much of a bother’, we will not accept it.

The politicians are not running a private business. They are working for us. They have asked us to choose them to coordinate the running of the country, and we have accepted their request by voting for them. The act of voting is saying ‘yes, you may run the country.’

The role of the media in a democracy is to ask the government questions that a common man would ask, and to get the answers back to the man on the street.

Because the everyday man has a lot of questions, but he also has a job to go to. Which is why he has asked a set of people to run the country for him and a set of people have taken on the jobs of informing him if the person he chose is doing the job.

We (the media) are the people who have taken on this job of asking questions. And we will not accept secrecy. Its a matter of running the government. The youngest democracy in the world, the experiment that must not fail. It’s everyone’s job to ensure it suceeds. We need all answers, we need all information


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