In the modern world, the media plays an important role in the political arena, particularly in the functioning of democracy. Oftentimes, their role is recognized as that of the “watchdog”, informing the public of the performance of the government and help to hold them in account. Other than that, the media have other roles, such as educating the voters in exercising their rights, reporting on the developments of the campaign, providing the platform of the political parties and candidates to the electorate and reporting the results and monitoring vote count.
In Bhutan, a country that had been isolated from the world until the 1970s, the internet and television was introduced in 1999. From a conservative, hierarchical society, Bhutan was awakened by the introduction of media, particularly social media. Information entered and exited the country which developed new view and opinions in the Bhutanese society, particularly the youth. Facebook and Twitter became commonly-used social media sites. It became an avenue for expressing their views and forcing change. It connected decision-makers and the youth; for instance, it is normal to as a political leader to become a Facebook friend. Through Facebook they express their opinions and is also an easier way to reach out to people to invite to events.
The first elections of the country saw its first coverage through newly diverse media. ‘Live’ debates between political party presidents were aired on TV as well as broadcasts of the debates of the other 94 candidates. There had also been radio interviews for rural audiences in the country. These were useful to make known to the electorate the candidates as well as their plans and manifestos that will be exercised for the first time. The print media was also able to provide the citizens a glimpse of the potential future parliamentarians as the journalists followed them throughout Bhutan.
The importance of media in politics was recognize by the government of Bhutan for which they drafted the following to see to the proper use and role media play in society.
-Social Media Policy of the Royal Government of Bhutan
-Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) Social Media Rules and Regulations, 2012
-Media Coverage of Elections Rules and Regulations of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2012
-Strategy for the Implementation of the Provisions Related to Election Advertising, 2012
– How social media woke up Bhutan. (2014, February 19). Retrieved from BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-25314578
Suhonen, R. (2014). Youth Civic Engagement in Bhutan: Obedient Citizens of Social Activists?Malmo University.
– The Importance of the Media to Elections. (n.d.). Retrieved from ACE: The Electoral Knowledge Network: http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/me/onePage
– Wangchuk, D. (n.d.). Media and Elections In Bhutan. Retrieved from Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development: http://www.aibd.org.my/node/1090