The Office of the Media Arbitrator had found that the former National Council Chairperson, Dasho Sonam Kinga (Phd) had violated social media rules and that he had posted his article on Social media at an inappropriate time.
Electoral laws prohibits social media user from conveying such communication over social media during the period of election. The case is now referred to the Election Commission of Bhutan. The former chairperson had submitted a 15-page rebuttal during the hearing. A final decision will be out soon, probably before the primary round on September 15.
While we wait for the outcome of the case, we should commend the Office of the Media Arbitrator and the election commission to take the matter seriously and investigate it. There were words going around that the case will disappear into thin air, as the matter is complex and the issue involving a senior respected public figure. Some felt that the office and the commission would have no capacity to resolve it after DPT lodged a formal complaint.
Dasho Sonam Kinga will have good reasons to convince the election commission to dismiss the case. Whatever the outcome, the commission has set a good trend. They mean business when they warn people from posting or making derogatory remarks against political parties, candidates and liking or sharing such posts of other users.
Social media users are having a gala time on social media. Some are hiding behind the mask of fake accounts while some are open, as if to challenge the authority. The recent incident where the commission is questioning a high profile personality will serve as a good warning for the netizens, especially those who like attacking people and institutions on social media.
The DPT is claiming that the article that has gone viral has caused damage. The media arbitrator’s office found that the post has possible means of reducing the electoral chances of the political party. When the political parties are in the thick of campaigning, the post is unfair to one political party. The average voter will not have the capacity to analyse and believe what they hear, especially when it is done by a respected public figure. It is hampering the level playing field, which the Election Commission of Bhutan is trying to ensure.
The ECB will argue on the timing of the post and not fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the constitution. The public is waiting for a decision. All eyes are on it because of the profile of the case. Whatever the decision, it will make people think twice before they post anything on social media that can invite investigations.