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More journalists to enter political arena

… journalism skills add value to performing parliamentary duties

Puran Gurung

With two senior journalists resigning possibly to contest elections, journalists are easily becoming a common sight in the political arena. 

Journalists share close links with politicians and they represent political leaders in terms of their policies and political competence, and they have a good grasp of policies surrounding the country’s economics and development activities. 

In the parliament and outside the parliament, there are journalists serving as sitting members of parliament and serving political offices. 

People say it is a good trend because journalists can raise differing views and contribute to policy-making at the highest level. 

Many of the journalists share that they wish to offer candidacy for National Council for the very reason that they have stayed apolitical so far. 

Sonam Tobgyel, 43, a senior anchor and producer of Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) has served for more than two decades in BBSC and resigned to join politics. He will campaign for a National Council seat. 

Reiterating the words of His Majesty The King on the importance of media for shaping a young democracy, he said that he can contribute a lot to this policy-making body as he has been a journalist for so long and he is well versed in understanding the issues surrounding the people, and the country.  

Additionally, he said that he sees a lot of loopholes in the law-making process, and the lack of differing views. For instance, he says that only a few Members of Parliament (MPs) are raising their voices for various purposes and suddenly there are 47 shows of hand to seal the deal, and this he says is a worrying trend. 

He said that his candidature is to strengthen the institution of the National Council and propose delegated legislation. “We know the process of law and the functions of the parliament, and also journalists through their work reflect the importance of democracy,” said Sonam Tobgyel, a former journalist. 

If journalists opt to contest elections, he said that more of them should join the National Council because it is the right forum to strengthen policy-making as they are exceptionally versed in the nooks and crannies of the country, and also in the economics and developmental activities of the country that contribute toward nation building. “They can raise their voice and ultimately it is for the public,” he added. 

Furthermore, he said that even senior civil servants should join politics because they understand the whole scope of governance and they serve on a platform that serves the public directly. 

However, he said that people should also understand the importance of their vote, and who they should vote for. “For this reason, most of the senior professionals don’t take the risk of joining politics,” he added.

The Secretary General of the People’s Democratic Party, Kuenga Tashi, a former journalist, says that there is no better person he can imagine than a journalist to understand the role of media in a democratic setting, and thus, a journalist will make a better politician. “I have observed some of the former journalists in the parliament are doing well,” he said.

This, he said, partly comes from the unique insights they bring enabled by their experience of working in the media industry.

He is also of the view that journalists play an important role in shaping policy decisions at the highest level, and that journalists joining politics should be encouraged. 

It is always good to come forth to serve Tsa-Wa-Sum and politics is one good platform, says Secretary General of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, Sonam Tashi. “More journalists turning towards politics is good so long they are determined and dedicated to serve the king, people and country with utmost loyalty,” he added.

As the ones who are supposedly good communicators and well-versed with good public relations, journalists-turned-politicians can contribute more to the nation building, he stressed.

He remarks that all the incumbent politicians who were journalists are performing very well.

Dr Passang Dorji, a serving MP of Bartsham-Shongphu, also a former journalist brings out the values he has inculcated as a journalist that have helped him to perform his parliamentary duties. 

He said that the ability to gather information is also an important tool for parliamentarians and that individuals with a high level of curiosity make good journalists, and this is the same for a parliamentarian. As parliamentarians are required to be critical and analytical, journalism shapes individuals to be critical and analytical. 

Further, he said that the ability to process information has helped him to make the right impact during the deliberations in the parliament. “My journalism background has helped me to shape effective and efficient communication,” said Dr Passang Dorji. 

He added that this value has led him to deliver efficiently and effectively given the limited time in the parliament deliberation.

Additionally, he also pointed out that journalism has shaped his debating skills, and it has been an important tool to perform his parliamentary duties. 

Reflecting on a journalist’s situation that requires journalists to keep abreast of all the developments within and globally, Kesang Dema, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, also a former journalist said that it all helps journalists to become aware of their surroundings and they naturally understand the ground reality as they talk to people on a daily basis. 

This, she said, makes journalists aspire for roles in the political arena, and that is where they can also make a difference.

However, she added this doesn’t mean there are no other professions that don’t feel the same way. “Ultimately it boils down to individuals,” she added.

Meanwhile, a political observer has a different story to tell.

Ideally, Journalist should make good politicians. But are they? If they are not, the observer say it is because the Journalist transforms to a politician. “You cannot be a politician with journalism ethics,” added the political observer.

He says that their tenure in the media will help them – analytical and critical skills, knowledge, articulation, oratory skills etc. But the question is if these advantages are utilized optimally to become a good politician, the observer asked. “And, when I say good politician, I mean those equipped with the above skills, who are able to question, understand the real needs and contribute to the making of a vibrant democracy,” the observer adds.

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