Toward 'holistic religion coverage'
KNOWN IN THE WEST as the “Last Shangri La,” this tiny Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan was one of the world’s most isolated countries until recent years.
The advent of democracy gave boost to independent media in 2008. Since then this Himalayan nation is treading cautiously to balance civil rights against its religious and cultural traditions. While journalists have a key role to play, The Media Project (TMP) found that the majority of the roughly 200 journalists here have not received any formal education in journalism.
At the one-day conference on March 14, “Media and Religion,” the need for a holistic coverage of social and public life by the country’s newspapers, magazines, radio stations and television channels will be addressed. The keynote address will be given by Lopen Gembo Dorji, Secretary General of Zhung Dratshang, Bhutan’s central monastic body. Mr. Tashi P. Wangdi, CEO/Editor-in-Chief, K-Media, will speak on “The Importance of Religion in Bhutanese Media,” and Mr. Needup Zangpo, Editor, Bhutan Observer, will focus on “Professional Development of Journalism in Bhutan.” TMP CEO Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad will share about internationally established journalism ethics and standards and how they apply in reporting on religion.
The conference is in cooperation with the Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF), and its Chairman Mr. Chencho Tshering will offer the welcome address. The BMF was established through a Royal Charter in 2010 to foster the growth of a strong and responsible media, and to support the development of mass media in the interest of democracy.
“In a country where religion is an integral part of people’s lives, such as in Bhutan, it is often presumed that issues related to faith and values do not need to be reported on,” said Dr. Fjeldstad, who arrived in the capital city of Thimphu last Friday. To report on such issues truthfully, fairly and honestly, journalists need values, awareness and skill sets, he added.
Bhutan’s top journalists from the print and electronic media and the radio will participate in the conference, the first in the country’s history. “Many of the journalists I met seemed excited and serious about journalism and were optimistic and keen to make a contribution in nation-building, and that is an extremely valuable asset this young democracy has,” Dr. Fjeldstad stressed. “Training of journalists in Bhutan is a task that must be seen as a priority,” added Dr. Fjeldstad, who held several meetings with media personnel in the past few days.
There is a need for training on a very basic level to ensure accuracy, fairness and honesty in any news report based on good ethical practices, Dr. Fjeldstad went on to say, as well as a little more specialized and advanced training to help journalists having more experience to develop further. Moreover, training needs to take place in the context of the uniqueness of Bhutan’s culture, he said.