Media, Ethics & the Judiciary Workshop

Sep 6, 2013

I am glad to be here with you today and pleased to see so many of you from across the government, media and the justice system. I congratulate you on your commitment to this important topic of the media, ethics and the judiciary. I hope that you have had a fruitful three days.

I’d like to thank the Department of Information and the Media, of the Ministry of Information and Communication for organizing this workshop. I would also like to thank Dr. Venkat Iyer for sharing his wealth of expertise and dedicating his time to the benefit of the media and law in Bhutan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The media and the justice system in Bhutan have undergone significant developments over the past five years, and now is an opportune time to reflect on the evolving relationship.  

A strong, independent judiciary and media each play distinct and important roles in a democratic society.  A good working relationship between the two, based on mutual respect and understanding, can help ensure that a delicate balance of informing the public and administering justice is struck.  

As a former legal journalist myself, I have seen first-hand how the media, working with the legal establishment, can be a potent force in fighting corruption and in ensuring respect for human rights.  In promulgating verdicts, the media help to create a common understanding of legal principles throughout the country. This relationship must be based on mutual understanding and trust.  It is important that journalists assigned to cover the courts develop a deep understanding of the law and the issues under review, to ensure the accuracy of the information reported to the public.  Jurists and lawyers can also explain not only the case at hand, but also broader applicability of decisions and linkages to other branches of law.

To give an example from my experience as a young reporter, in my home country a state legislature was considering a draft legislation on public decency.  The way the law was written would have prohibited a woman from breastfeeding in a place where alcohol was sold - such as a hotel, restaurant or bar.  The media’s coverage of debates, led to the courts issuing an opinion that the draft legislation would conflict with a woman’s right to breastfeed (which was also enshrined in law), and so the legislation was changed.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
For many years, UNDP Bhutan has supported both the judiciary and the media in building up the core capacities of their personnel. We have been pleased to facilitate the development of important instruments such as the draft National Media Policy, and the Right to Information Bill. The establishment of the Bhutan National Legal Institute also is something we have been proud to have been a part of and to continue to support.

Over the next five years, we are committed to sustain efforts towards a democratic governance system that is ever more inclusive, transparent and accountable.

We look forward to a continued debate and to our continued partnership here in Bhutan.