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Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan Mehta, Sanjeev Aug 31, 2006

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 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Sanjeev Mehta *
Abstract
In this study, the role of Kuensel in fostering the democratic
process is estimated on the basis of four important
functions: provider of information, interpreter of the events,
initiator of public debate, and as a watchdog. Since its
inception Kuensel has greatly contributed to disseminate
the information and later in promoting public discussion,
albeit on a smaller scale. Findings of this study suggest
that Kuensel's regular readership is not very high and also
that its news reporting despite its above average quality
cannot make an impact on people's opinion.
The finding of this sample study suggests that Kuensel is
rated as average by the people for its role in fostering
democracy. Its aggregate point score is 22.66 out of 40. Its
failure to explore and focus the crucial community issues,
and consequently its inability to provide alternative
solutions to the community problem has resulted in the poor
rating. Its role as a watchdog over the public institutions is
also rated below average, which is not surprising
considering that about 82% respondents believed that
reporting in Kuensel is subject to censorship.
The regression estimates suggest that issues relating to
participatory journalism are vital in strengthening the
democratic process. It is relevant for not only Kuensel but
also for other media in general.
Author is a lecturer in Department of Economics at Sherubtse
College, Kanglung, Bhutan
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Introduction
The mass media constitute the backbone of democracy. Role of
print media and especiaUy that of newspaper in strengthening
democracy is extremely vital. Democracy is generally defined as
the rule of the people by the people and for the people. This type
of meaningful democracy requires that informed citizens take
the most appropriate decisions regarding various aspects of
governance. People make social choice through the voting
process. Citizenship is a crucial issue for the success of the
modern democratic state. Citizenship refers to the rights and
duties of the members of a state. It is argued by historians that
citizenship has thus expanded with democratization to include a
wider definition of the citizen regardless of sex, age, or ethnicity.
The concept was revived in the context of the modern state,
notably during the French and American Revolutions, and
gradually became identified more with rights than obligations.
In modern times citizenship refers conventionaUy to the various
organizations which institutionalize these rights in the weUare
state.
The role of modern media is extremely crucial for the
strengthening of the democratic process by educating the
citizens on the various relevant issues. The media is expected to
perform three basic functions: provider of information,
watchdog for the people, and interpreter of the events.
Newspapers act as transmitters of information on a variety of
pubHc issues and as interpreters of different events. People, the
main players in democratic systems, decide the poHcy issues
either directly or indirectly. In this decision making process,
access to information about the working of the socio-poHtical
system is essential.
We need suitable benchmarks for poHtical knowledge to analyze
what the pubHc learns from the news media. The literature
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
provides two broad approaches on the role of media, the civic
approach and the relativist approach.
The civic approach
Traditionally speaking, it meant providing a narrow type of
'ideal' information about the government and pubHc poHcy that
aU citizens need to know.
The relativist approach
It is based on the assumption that people have a limited stock of
political information which is insufficient to make any social
choice. The role of the media is to provide aU the necessary
information that is crucial in making informed opinions and
judgment on the relevant pubHc and social issues.
But the concept of civic approach to journaHsm has undergone
an evolution and now it is interpreted in various manners. Most
would probably agree, however, that civic journalism is both a
philosophy and a set of practices that require a newspaper to go
beyond the mere telling of the news. Rather, it strives to
invigorate the democratic process, usuaUy by seeking out the
concerns of average citizens and motivating them to become
involved in solving civic problems. It requires a more active role
than that of the traditionaUy uninvolved observer; civic-
journaHsm coverage usuaUy involves the promotion of pubHc
discussion of key issues and the reporting of positive, solution-
oriented stories (rather than "conflict" stories). Civic journaHsm
also usuaUy goes beyond modes of coverage: papers sometimes
organize communities (or their leaders) with activities intended
to spark movement toward solutions, or at least toward greater
civic unity.
It is thus quite evident that the media plays an important role in
providing vital information to the people (stakeholders in the
democracy).   Its   role   in   strengthening   democracy   Hes   in
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
performing this vital task. The modern media look at this
responsibility in different ways. Some act like the provider of
information, others take the responsibility of providing
analytical interpretation of the information and a smaU section,
whose number is on the rise, act as pubHc watchdogs.
How do newspaper journalists envision their social role in the
broadest sense? Media researchers for several years have found
that journaHsts seem to identify with one, two or even aU three
of these functions: as disseminators of information; as
"watchdogs" (in some research caUed "adversaries") of powerful
institutions (especiaUy government); and as interpreters of
events. Most studies have found that the interpretive role is
embraced most widely among newspaper journaHsts, with the
least-agreed-upon being the watchdog role.
It would be not impertinent to quote The American Society of
Newspaper Editors (1997) which highlighted the present trend:
'There seems to be a decHning (but stiU solid)
commitment to aU three of these traditional
understandings of the purpose newspapers
serve. It could be that journalists are less sure
generaUy about the role newspapers play, or
should play, in the broadest sense."
The media has a crucial role in governance, human rights and
the eUmination of poverty. The media can become a major force
in improving the quaHty of governance. Tight government
controls and censorship makes media ineffective. According to
DFID (2001) the article 19 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights provides that:
"Everyone has right to freedom of opinion and
expression; this right includes freedom to hold
opinions without any interference and to seek,
receive and impart information through any
media regardless of frontiers."
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
On the other hand too Httle control may lead to domination of
commercial media ruled by advertising which is detrimental to
the interest of those without purchasing power. Good
management, professional and technical skills are equaUy vital
to make media an effective tool in fostering democracy.
PubHc debate and discussions on relevant and significant issues
is very crucial for the success of democracy. Nelson Mandela
(1994) wrote in his autobiography about the importance of
pubHc debate in democracy:
"everyone [that] wanted to speak did so. It was
democracy in its purest form. .. .The foundation
of self governance was that aU men were free to
voice their opinions and equal in their value as
citizens."
In the absence of the tradition of pubHc discussion, the
newspapers and other media have to play a crucial role in
stimulating such discussion amongst the wider segment of the
population.
In short, the media enables strengthening of democratic process
by:
• Making people more aware of their rights
• Making people more aware of poHtical and social issues,
avaUable options
• Initiating wider and pluraHst debate on the relevant
pubHc issues
• Drawing attention towards institutional failure such as-
corruption, nepotism, caUous attitudes and general
inefficiency of the government machinery.
• Creating pressure for improved government
performance and efficient deHvery of pubHc services.
• Extending pubHc accountability
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Media Research
Many researchers have attempted to identify the role of the
media in performing these functions. The study of evaluations
of the news media —particularly in terms of one dimension,
credibUity —has a long tradition. Whitney (1985) has traced
systematic pubHc opinion research on media credibiHty back to
the 1930s, when GaUup and Roper surveys included questions
asking respondents H the press was credible and beHevable.
McLeod, Kosicki and Pan (1991), summarized early research on
the impact of media images and reported that audience
members who believe the media is of high quaHty are —
surprisingly—less likely to learn from news in the media than
are those with a negative evaluation of the media in this
dimension. Spitzer (1993) emphasized that the media possesses
a distinctive capacity to shape pubHc policy. Kingdon (1995)
suggested that news media shapes pubHc policy by linking
people inside and outside the government.
Linsky (1986) found that the media plays a significant and
commanding role in democracy and pubHc affairs. He also
maintained that the media substantiaUy impacts the formation
of poHtical agendas and the performance of poHtical institutions.
Graber (1984) commented that "Although the verdict is mixed
about the extent of media influence on various poHtical arenas,
evidence strongly suggest it is a sizable factor."
Gunther and Mughan (2000) found that cross-cultural
comparisons convey the strong effect of the media on political
development. McCombs and Reynolds (2002) stated that there is
plenty of evidence that the media has a strong influence on
people's perception about the issues which are important and
for which they seek solution from the government.
The evidence in this research provides a good insight into the
mechanism through which the media affects the democratic
process.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Objective of this study
In this paper we plan to evaluate the impact of Kuensel on the
pubHc life. It is important to understand how Kuensel has been
able to affect the informed opinion of the pubHc and thereby
how it has been able to tackle crucial public issues. For a society
which has remained shut from the rest of the world till the
middle of the last century; pubHc awareness about relevant
issues and the abUity of the general pubHc to debate over the
issues was greatly compromised. Has the arrival of Kuensel
changed the situation? Is it an important area of research?
In the last two and haU decades, the RGOB, under the
leadership of the present King, has been making a series of
attempts to democratize poHtical institutions. It is therefore not
surprising that the Times Magazine has named His Majesty the
King as one of the 21 most influential leaders in the world. Now
the question is to what extent the fourth estate is able to play the
required role in fostering democracy. Kuensel's responsibility to
strengthen democracy is even more important. Since there is no
proof of how it has played the required role, it is important to
gauge how the readers rate Kuensel in this respect.
The central objective of this study is to find this out and to
statistically test the significant parameters.
Methodology
This study is based on primary as well as secondary data. For
this study we coUected primary information by conducting a
sample survey in Kanglung. We used stratified random sample
selection for the members of Sherubtse CoUege: students and
others, which included teaching and non-teaching staff. The Hst
of names was used as a sample frame. For non-Sherubtse
samples, we used a convenient sample selection process in the
absence of any reHable sample frame. Sample units are the
individuals who read Kuensel. The random sample selection
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
was difficult in the absence of a reliable sampling frame. We
carried out questionnaire-based data coUection. A total of 176
persons were interviewed, but 35 questionnaires were omitted
either because of non-response or due to incomplete or
inconsistent responses. The samples were asked to give their
response to dHferent questions and the answers are analyzed on
a point scale to find out the average score for each response and
overaU conclusion.
Secondary data were used to trace the growth of Kuensel and its
contribution to fostering the forces of democracy. For assessing
the role of Kuensel in fostering democracy, I explored different
issues of Kuensel which were randomly picked up. For selecting
samples of Kuensel, I used the stratified sampling method so as
to provide proportional representation to different decades.
Samples selected belonged to the years: 1969, 1972, 1978, 1980,
1986,1995,1998 and 2002.
Findings of the study
Tracing the growth of Kuensel
In a social setting with a strong centiaHst tendency, without any
constitutional provision that protects the right to expression and
the right to information, the rise of Kuensel as a national
newspaper was no mean achievement in and of itseU. Kuensel
came into existence in the late 1960's as an official fortnightly
news buUetin of the Royal Government of Bhutan. Its primary
role was aimed at providing information to the general pubHc
about government poHcies, which can be termed a civic
approach. OrganizationaUy, it was under the Mnistry of
Development. In 1980's, its status changed from the official
news buUetin to the news buUetin and in the same decade it
turned from a fortnight to a weekly news buUetin. Hi the 1990's
it became a national newspaper. In 2005, Kuensel started
appearing twice a week.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
As an official mouthpiece, it was not supposed to generate
debate on the issues of pubHc interest. Under the Department of
PubHcity it was obviously an official mouthpiece of the
government. In the earHer phase, Kuensel did not have an
editorial as a regular feature and whenever they appeared, they
were limited to some significant events which were absolutely
non-controversial. By the late 1980's, editorials were a regular
feature of Kuensel. InitiaUy, it did not provide any scope for
reader's responses. In 1990's, when its status was changed to a
national newspaper, editorials and reader's opinion started
featuring as regular content.
The analysis made about the role of Kuensel is based on the
reporting in the sample issues of Kuensel.
Kuensel did not carry editorials in 1969. The Kuensel issue of
September 10, 1972 featured an editorial titled "Jigme Dorji
Wangchuck, Kingly Reformer". On September 24, 1972, the
editorial of Kuensel covered the three resolutions in the 37th
session of the national assembly. In 1980 and 1986, Kuensel
issues did not contain any editorials. The 1990's witnessed
reader's opinions, which implied an improved role of Kuensel in
generating pubHc debate. In an issue of Kuensel, dated February
18, 1995, a letter by Chhoeki Wangchuk of GaHng
Lhundrupjhung is a testimonial of the changing role of Kuensel
in generating pubHc debate on relevant pubHc issues. In this
letter Chhoeki responded to the article "GaHng: A village
neglected" (Kuensel January 28, 1995) by Tenzin Rigden about
the decline in the education in GaHng due to faulty government
policy. Not only did Kuensel point out the flaws in the
government poHcy but also aroused a pubHc debate.
On another occasion Tashi Wangchuck wrote on June 24, 1995:
"Kuensel should be pleased with the way a section of the society
is influenced by its editorials". This comment showed that
Kuensel's reporting was able to influence popular opinion.  But
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
again he pointed out that most of the letters were written by
expatriates. Kuensel's reported inability to initiate pubHc
discussion among Bhutanese nationals reflects the lack of a
culture of pubHc discussion.
In 1995, the range of the coverage of the editorials was very vast.
It included non-controversial topics such as "No spares" Qan 21)
about the unavailability of spare parts for imported vehicles.
What is more significant is that this editorial was written in
response to the letter by a reader on this issue. It is an example
of responding to the needs of the public in a participatory
approach to journaHsm. Other editorials included relevant
pubHc issues about: crime and unreHable poHce statistics Qan
28), professionaHsm and quaHty of the work of the private
contractors (AprU 15), and tackling fronting Qune 10), which
highlighted the fronting practices of Bhutanese businessmen. In
this editorial the abUity of the ministry to tackle this problem is
questioned very subtly as "whether ministry barks far fiercer
than its bite". It also raised skepticism whether the key ones
would be caught. This editorial is an indicator of the evolution
of Kuensel into a more independent newspaper which acts as a
watchdog over pubHc institutions.
From the samples of editorials and reader's responses it is quite
evident that Kuensel evolved from a mouthpiece of the
government to a more independent newspaper which highHghts
the relevant pubHc issues, fosters pubHc discussions on these
issues, and also keeps an eye on government performance.
Kuensel has performed all of the three roles that a modern
media is supposed to perform. Its ability to transmit that
information conveys its strong role in promoting democratic
values.
How Kuensel is rated by independent organizations is also
important to know. I have an excerpt from the Freedom House's
Bhutan country report (2004):
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
"Freedom of expression and of the press is
restricted. In the absence of a constitution or
clearly defined legislation concerning the
operation of the media, the legal environment
for the press remains opaque. Criticism of
Bhutan's poHtical system has by tradition been
prohibited. Bhutan's only regular pubHcation,
the weekly Kuensel, generaUy reports news that
puts the kingdom in a favorable Hght, although
it does provide occasional coverage of criticism
of government poHcies during assembly
meetings. Kuensel's onHne edition, which is
updated daily and contains reader feedback,
provides a somewhat Hvelier forum for
discussion and debate. In past years,
journaHsts working for Kuensel have reportedly
been subjected to threats from the government,
but no cases of official harassment were made
pubHc during 2004. The broadcast media,
which consist of the state-run Bhutan
Broadcasting Service radio station and
television station, do not carry anti-government
positions and statements. Cable television
services are privately run and carry
uncensored foreign programming. However,
whUe they are thriving in urban areas, their
growth has been somewhat hampered by a
high sales tax and the absence of a
broadcasting law. Internet access is growing
and is unrestricted, and a second Internet
service provider started operations in 2004."
Any judgment on this cannot be made as there is no strong
evidence to either accept or reject the report.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Graph no.l: Changes in press freedom rank of
Bhutan
100 -,
Bhutan's press freedom rank
1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Year
Source:  Freedom House, "Freedom of the press"
Freedom House Surveys, 2004
Freedom House conducts annual surveys and ranks different
countries on the basis of their level of press freedom. Bhutan's
press freedom rank deteriorated in the 1990's but improved
during the present decade. Graph no.l shows the press freedom
rank of Bhutan since 1994.
Readers Response
Any unbiased judgment on the role of Kuensel in fostering
democracy would call for getting the feedback from the readers.
How they rate Kuensel will reflect the abUity of this medium to
penetrate the minds of the end beneficiaries.
Of the 141 samples, 98 (69.5%) were male and 43 (30.5%) were
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
female. Gender-wise distribution of samples is not based of their
respective weight in the population.
Disseminating information
One of the important tasks of the media is to disseminate
information to the public. It depends upon its abUity to get the
attention of the readers/ viewers and the quaHty of news
coverage.
The respondents were asked the questions: Do you read
Kuensel? And do you read editorials in Kuensel? Those who
responded negatively to the first question were removed from
the study.
As the table no. 1 suggests, a small segment of the respondents
i.e. only 29% read Kuensel regularly, while 44.7% respondents
said that they read it more or less regularly. About 26% of the
respondents accepted that they read Kuensel only occasionaUy.
Only 16.3% of the female respondents reported reading Kuensel
regularly, which is less than haU of the male respondents i.e. -
34.7%. On the same line, more of the female respondents (30.2%)
as compared to the male respondents (24.5%) conveyed that
they read Kuensel only occasionaUy.
When asked about their habit of reading editorials (table no. 2)
23.4% of respondents conveyed that they read editorials
regularly. A predominant majority, i.e. 68%, revealed that they
read editorials only sometimes, while 8.5% of the respondents
never read editorials. As far as the habit of reading editorials is
concerned there is less of a sharp dHference between male and
female respondents as compared to reading the Kuensel itseU.
These gender based differences in the reading habits are largely
due to the fact that females are less interested in poHtical affairs.
This analysis becomes more significant considering the fact that
aU the samples belong to the more educated category of the
society. LogicaUy this would imply that as we move down the
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
ladder the penetration of media becomes less strong.
Table 1: Reading Kuensel
Male                     Female
Total
Regularly
34 (34.7%)          7 (16.3%)
41(29.1%)
More or less
regularly
40 (40.8%)          23 (53.5%)
63 (44.7%)
Occasionally
24 (24.5%)           13(30.2%)
37 (26.2%)
Total
98                          43
141
Table 2: Reading editorials
Male
Female
Total
Regularly
25 (25.5%)
8 (18.6%)
33 (23.4%)
Only Sometimes
65 (66.3%)
31 (72.1%)
96 (68.1%)
Never
8 (8.2%)
4 (9.3%)
12 (8.5%)
Total
98
43
141
When asked for their opinion about the whether the news
coverage of the Kuensel is wide, 56.7% respondents beHeved
that news coverage is wide. About 85% of the respondents
beHeved that news reporting by Kuensel is informative. Many
respondents beHeve that news reporting is informative but a
relatively lesser number of thinks that its coverage is wide. It is
equaUy significant to note that about 72% of the respondents
were of the opinion that Kuensel reporting is able to bring out
different viewpoints on critical and relevant issues.
Inducing discussions
It is quite surprising in the Hght of the high readership and
better opinion about the quaHty of the reporting in Kuensel that
it faUed to provoke discussion over the critical pubHc issues
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
amongst the readers. Only 18.5% of the respondents conveyed
that they participate in the discussions and 81.5% respondents
never participated in any of the discussions. This is a pointer
towards a lack of culture of pubHc discussions which is against
the spirit of democracy. This can be seen as a faUure on the part
of Kuensel to promote greater spread of public debate on the
relevant issues. The other side of it is brighter in the sense that
19 of the 26 (73%) respondents who participated in any
discussion on the issues raised by Kuensel believed that these
discussions were based on better informed opinions. Table no. 3
provides the analysis of the extent to which reporting in Kuensel
affected reader's judgment on any issue. More than haU of the
respondents (52.5%) expressed that their judgment on any issue
after reading news reporting in Kuensel did not change or they
do not remember it. Only 14% respondents agreed that their
judgment on any issue changed very often after reading
reporting in Kuensel, while 33% respondents expressed that it
happened only sometimes. It is interesting to note that 62.8% of
the female respondents expressed that their judgment on any
issue never changed from the reporting in Kuensel as compared
to only 48% of the male respondents. Similarly, only 7% female
respondents told that their judgment has changed very often
after reading reporting in the Kuensel, as compared to 17.3% of
the male respondents. Identification of the reasons of these
gender based variations in the answers is not the scope of
present study and future researchers may look into this aspect.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Table   3:       Does   Kuensel   reporting   affect   readers'
judgment?
Male
Female
Total
Yes, very often
17 (17.3%)
3 (7%)
20(14.2)
Only sometimes
34 (34.7%)
13 (30.2%)
47 (33.3)
Never/do            not
remember
47 (48%)
27 (62.8%)
74 (52.5%)
Total
98
43
141
For any effective democratic process it is essential that the media
not only generate awareness amongst the pubHc on critical and
relevant pubHc issues but also create pressure on the
government to enact desirable changes. This helps to bridge the
communication gap between the rulers and the ruled especiaUy
when the majority of population does not take up the issue
directly. There is no objective evidence to evaluate the role of
Kuensel in inducing discussions amongst poHtical leaders in the
national assembly and influencing their decisions. We have
attempted to gauge this from what the Kuensel readers think
about it.
The findings are Hsted in table no.4, according to which 56%
respondents felt that news reporting or editorials in Kuensel
create pressure on the poHtical leaders for discussion and
decision on those issues. We made curve estimates to find out
the association between education level and beHef of the
respondents about inducing discussions among the political
leaders and affecting their decisions. The curve estimate (as
shown in graph no.2) reflects a negative association. With a
higher education level, people think negatively about the role of
Kuensel in this sense. This is probably because with higher
education, analytical faculties of the people improve. Variable 1
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
(education level) is independent and variable 2 (dummy
variable for the reply by the respondents in yes and no) is a
dependent variable. Table no.5 shows there is a smaU negative
correlation (-0.167) between the two variables and the value of r2
is 0.027, which explains that about 3% of the variation in the
answers can be explained by changes in the education level. The
coefficient of determination is very small and therefore
insignificant.
Table 4 (a): Does Kuensel influence political decisions
and debate?
No. of respondents
%
Yes
79
56
No
62
44
Total
^m
141
Table 4 (b): Education level and Kuensel's influence in
inducing debates and discussion
Model       R     R Square        Adjusted RStd.    Error   of   the
Square        Estimate
1 .165        .027 .020 .4931
a Predictors: (Constant), VAR00001
Graph no. 2: curve estimate ofthe impact of education level on
belief in influencing political discussions and decisions.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
VAR00002
Acting as watchdogs
Another important role of the media is to act as a watchdog for
the pubHc over the pubHc institutions. If the media is subjected
to censorship or stricter regulations it cannot perform this duty.
When asked about their opinion whether the reporting by
Kuensel is subjected to censorship, a predominant majority i.e. -
82.3% of respondents thought it is subjected to censorship. This
is also because of the strong beHef among the respondents that
Kuensel is not acting as a watchdog. AU the respondents except
one conveyed that Kuensel should initiate investigative
journaHsm.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Table    no.
censorship?
5:    Whether    Kuensel    is    subjected    to
No.              of
respondents
%
Yes
116
82.3
No
25
17.7
Total
141
100
Role of Kuensel in fostering democracy in Bhutan
When asked about the role of Kuensel in fostering democracy in
Bhutan a vast majority (68%) of the respondents rated it as
average. 2.8% and 13.5% of the respondents rated it very low
and low respectively. Only 1.4% of the respondents rated it very
high. (See graph 3)
Graph 3: Kuensel's role in fostering democracy
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
62.4 % of the respondents rated the quaHty of reporting in
Kuensel as average and 14.2% of the respondents rated it as
high. 2.8% and 13.5% of the respondents rated it as very low and
low respectively. None rated it as very high. To the question
whether Kuensel's editorials provide critical understanding of
the significant issues 57.4% of the respondents rated it as
average and 17.7% respondents rated is high. 19.9% and 5%
respectively rated as low and very low.
Analysis of the respondents' opinion on the role of
Kuensel in fostering democracy
To quantitatively assess the overaU role of the Kuensel in
fostering the process of democracy in Bhutan we asked dHferent
relevant questions (as shown in the table no. 6) to the
respondents. The respondents were asked to put their answers
in numeric scale of 1 to 5 in an ascending order of opinion, i.e.
from "strongly disagree" as 1 to "strongly agree" as 5. The
numeric scale was combined with a verbal scale to facilitate the
exact meaning of the numeric scale. For each of the questions we
have calculated the average score, which represents the extent of
the contribution of the Kuensel in that particular aspect. The
aggregate score is a sum of the average score for each of the
questions which reflect overaU rating of the Kuensel in fostering
the democratic process in Bhutan.
Table 6 suggests that the average score of Kuensel in fostering
democracy is 2.99, that is 3. It means that the respondents rated
it as average when the question was asked directly. The average
score of Kuensel for the quaHty of its reports is 3.13, which is
above average. For developing enterprising stories for focusing
attention towards community problems it rated 2.92 on the
numeric scale. As far as the abiHty of Kuensel to generate public
discussion is concerned, it scored the lowest average point of
2.6. This is a main area where Kuensel seems to have performed
the worst. Kuensel scored 2.89 points for the abiHty of its
editorials to provide critical understanding of crucial issues.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Kuensel's average score for taking up issues relating to
corruption is 2.65. Its low rating for this issue is largely due to
the fact that 82% of the respondents beHeved that it is subjected
to censorship by the government. For the rest of the issues its
rating is also below average. The aggregate score of Kuensel in
fostering democracy is the sum of the average score for aU the
questions taken together. The aggregate score of Kuensel is 22.66
out of 40, which is equivalent of 2.83 on a scale of 5. This impHes
that Kuensel's role in fostering the democratic process can be
rated as average. The points given by male and female
respondents to the Kuensel on the performance of its various
roles are quite consistent and reflect a very low degree of
dHference. There are some interesting internal inconsistencies in
the points given by respondents: when asked directly about how
they rate the role of Kuensel in fostering democracy, female
respondents gave them lower points (2.91) as compared to the
male counterpart who gave 3.01 points to Kuensel. But the
aggregate score given by females (22.77) is higher than that of
their male counterparts (22.56).
It is quite clear from this evidence that Kuensel needs to put
more emphasis on issues Hke promoting pubHc debate and
acting as a watchdog of the government to consoHdate its role as
an institution that strengthens the roots of democracy. This can
be done by improving the editorials in order to provide critical
understanding of the issues to its readers. In the absence of
better knowledge about the relevant issues, people are not able
to debate on the relevant pubHc issues on a larger scale.
Persistent arguments are an important part of pubHc life in
democracy. Public debate provides the citizens constant
opportunity to participate in the public decision-making
process. To make such pubHc discussion more effective, the
media wiU have to play a very powerful role as a disseminator
of the relevant information on public poHcies. Besides this,
Kuensel wUl have to give more importance to raising the issues
of corruption in pubHc life, without which not only would its
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
pubHc rating be low, but its position as a democratic institution
would weaken, especiaUy in the face of emerging competition.
This would depend upon how the media is free to operate.
In the quantitative analysis dHferent variables are categorized
as:-
• Average score of Kuensel (varl) is also taken as a
dependent variable
• Editorials providing critical understanding of significant
issues (var2)
• Kuensel generating pubHc discussions (var3)
• Kuensel providing alternative solutions to community
problems (var4)
• Kuensel   developing   enterprising   stories    to   focus
attention towards community problems (var5)
• Kuensel conducting town meetings to discover issues
(var6)
• Kuensel's abiHty to focus on issues of corruption (var7)
• Age of the respondents (var8)
• Education level of the respondents (var9)
Varl is defined as a dependant variable, and it is a proxy
variable representing the role of Kuensel in fostering democracy.
Var2 to var9 are defined as explanatory variables. Var8 and var9
are exogenous variables, which cannot be affected by the media.
The exogenous nature of var8 and var9 raises the importance of
poHcy-induced variables in fostering democracy. The remaining
explanatory variables (var2, var3, var4, var5, var6 and var7) are
poHcy contioUed variables, i.e. changes in the poHcy of
reporting the news can determine the aggregate score.
A linear regression test is conducted to identify the extent to
which each variable affects the dependent variable.
 Table  6:   Points scored by  Kuensel on  different  issues pertaining to  its  role  in
fostering democracy
Issues
Average score
(given           by
males)
Average   score
(given            by
females)
Average
score
Rate    the    role    of       Kuensel    in    fostering
democracy
3.01
2.91
2.99
Rate the quality of reports in Kuensel
3.11
3.16
3.13
Rate the ability of editorials to provide critical
understanding of the significant issues
2.85
2.95
2.89
Rate the extent to which Kuensel is able to
generate discussions
2.63
2.56
2.60
Reporting   in    Kuensel    provides    alternative
solutions and points out trade-offs involved in
community problems
2.84
2.86
2.84
Kuensel develops enterprising stories to focus
attention towards community problems
2.92
2.93
2.92
Kuensel conducts town meetings to discover
issues in the community and follows up
2.57
2.74
2.64
Ability of Kuensel to raise issues relating to
corruption in the government
2.65
2.64
2.65
Aggregate score
22.57
22.77
22.66
 Role ofKunesel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Curve estimate for association between var8 and varl
It is natural and logical to assume that people gain experience
with age and develop a greater abiHty to analyze things. In this
case, how they rate the role of Kuensel in fostering democracy
would be affected by their age. We have run a regression test on
varl for var8. The intercept of the regression function is at the
aggregate score of 26.76, which can be termed as the mean score.
Slope of the regression function is (-) 0.1596, which impHes
negative association between age and the aggregate score. Value
of r2 is 0.11; hence only 11 % of the variation in aggregate score
can be explained with the variation in age. The regression
estimates suggest that with the increase in age people's rating of
Kuensel declines. It is an area in which Kuensel will have to look
into to improve its reporting quaHty to make it appeaHng to the
more experienced segment of the population.
Test Results
Independent: VAR8
Dependent Mth  Rsq   di.      F    Sigf      bO        bl
VAR1        LIN .111   139  17.34 .000  26.7616  -.1596
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
VAR00001
n  Observed
°   Linear
VAR00008
Curve estimate for association between var9 and varl
Education level of the people is another important factor
determining how they rate democratic institutions. With a
higher level of education, people's understanding of dHferent
issues improves and they are able to make an appropriate
decision. We have run a regression test on varl for var9. The
mean value of the aggregate score is 23.01 with a slope of -0.092.
There is a smaU negative association between varl and var9.
The value of r2 is also very smaU (0.001), which means
association is extremely insignificant. From these two tests it is
ascertained that age has played a stronger role than education
level in affecting the aggregate score. It is a surprising result that
level of education does not influence people's rating of the
media. I can not offer any explanation of this phenomenon.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Test results
Independent: VAR9
Dependent Mth   Rsq   di.       F    Sigf     bO bl
VAR1      LIN    .001   139    .09 .770  23.0140   -.0920
VAR00001
30'
20'
10
a  Observed
a  Linear
0 1
VAR00009
Curve estimate for the association between var2 and
varl
Good quality editorials help the readers in developing critical
understanding of the issues and consequently strengthen their
abiHty as enlightened citizens. A regression test reflects that varl
is positively associated with the changes in var2. The mean
value of varl is 15.45 and the slope of the regression line is 2.49.
The value of r2 is 0.285. The better the people rate the editorials
of Kuensel the higher is their rating of Kuensel in promoting
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
democracy as their understanding of critical issues increases and
they make better informed social decisions.
Test Results
Independent: VAR2
Dependent Mth  Rsq  di.        F     Sigf bO bl
VAR1       LIN   .285  139     55.28 .000    15.4562   2.4918
VAR00001
D   Observed
a   Linear
VAR00002
Curve estimate for the association between varl and
var3
The abiHty of the media to promote public discussion on critical
pubHc issues is an important variable that affects its abiHty as a
democratic force. Regression estimates suggest that the mean
value of varl is 18.31 and slope of the function is 1.65. There
exists a high positive association between varl and var3, given
that the change var3 brings about is more than the proportionate
change in varl. The value of r2 is 0.129.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Test results
Independent: VAR3
Dependent  Mth  Rsq     di.      F     Sigf       bO bl
VAR1       LIN    .129    139  20.62 .000  18.3195  1.6520
VAROOOOI
n    Observed
n    Linear
.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5
VAR00003
Curve estimate for the association between varl and
var4
The abiHty of the media to provide alternative solutions to
community problems provides a larger range of social choice to
the pubHc and thereby positively influences the democratic
decision making process. Regression estimates suggest that the
mean value of varl is 13.24 and the slope of the regression line is
3.30. The value of r2 is 0.446, which means about 45% variation
in varl can be explained in terms of variation in var4. There is a
strong positive effect on varl from var4.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Test results
Independent: VAR4
Dependent   Mth  Rsq   di.      F Sigf      bO bl
VAR1 LIN .446   139    111.95   .000   13.2455   3.3002
VAR00001
n   Observed
n   Linear
VAR00004
Curve estimate for the association between varl and
var5
An increasing portion of media literature highlights that the
media should try to focus attention on community problems by
developing enterprising stories. Such stories draw the attention
of public as weU as the government and thus faciHtate more
prompt attention to tackle the issues. It helps to reduce delays in
taking action. We have run regression test for var5 on varl to
check the association. The mean value of varl is 12.77 and the
slope of regression Hne is 3.37, which reflects that changes in
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
var4 have more than a proportionate effect on varl. Value of r2 is
0.5 which impHes about 50% of the variation in varl can be
explained through the variation in var5.
Test results
Independent: VAR5
Dependent  Mth   Rsq    di.       F      Sigf     bO bl
VAR1 LIN   .503   139   140.84 .000  12.7709   3.3745
VAROOOOI
n    Obserx
n    Linear
VAR00005
Curve estimate for the association between varl and
var6
The abiHty of the media to promote a democratic approach to
governance also depends upon how it interacts with the
community to discover the relevant and critical issues and bring
them into pubHc discussion. The media should interact actively
with the community to address their problems. This is
increasingly being recognized as an important ingredient of
participatory journaHsm. Such action forces pubHc institutions to
notice the issues and address them. How this variable (var6)
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
affects democratic process, measured as varl, is an important
question to be answered. Regression estimates reflect that the
mean value of varl is 14.67 and the slope of the function is 3.03.
Var6 has high positive effect on varl. Value of r2 is 0.518, which
is significant.
Test results
Independent: VAR6
Dependent  Mth   Rsq    di.      F       Sigf      bO bl
VAR1 LIN   .518   139   149.63   .000  14.6718  3.0332
VAR00001
a   Observed
a   Linear
.5 1.0 1.5
VAR00006
Curve estimate for the association between varl and
var7
Media is one of the most effective institutions of democracy as it
acts as a watchdog of the people on pubHc institutions. It is
supposed to focus on the issues relating to corrupt practices of
pubHc institutions. By bringing out these issues it can create
social and poHtical pressure for good and clean governance. If
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
the media performs this function effectively it can contribute to
making the benefits of pubHc poHcy reach the weaker segments
of society. Regression estimates for var7 on varl suggest that it
is positively associated. The mean value of varl is 16.45 and the
slope of the regression function is 2.33. The value of r2 is 0.387.
Test results
Independent: VAR7
Dependent     Mth     Rsq   di.      F
Sigf
bO
bl
VAR1 LIN    .387  139    87.80   .000   16.4529   2.3355
VAROOOOI
Observed
Linear
VAR00007
To find out which policy-induced explanatory variables have
the highest effect on the independent variable, a comparison is
made between the values of r2. The value of r2 is a measure of
overaU goodness of fit, caUed a coefficient of determination.
Though the straight comparison of the r2 values of dHferent
models is not appropriate, it can be done H the sample size in
the dHferent models is same. In the table no.7 such comparisons
are made.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Table  7:  Comparing the r2 values for different regression
models
Regression
model
^^^^B
var2 on varl
0.285
var3 on varl
0.129
var4 on varl
0.446
var5 on varl
0.503
var6 on varl
0.518
var7 on varl
0.387
Of the explanatory variables, var6 has the highest r2 value; hence
it has relatively the largest impact on varl. The var5 has the next
most significant explanatory variable, as its r2 value is
marginaUy less than var6. Var3 has the least affect on varl. The
ranks of the poHcy-induced explanatory variables on the basis of
the r2 values are given in table no.8. The aggregate score of
Kuensel is mainly influenced by its abiHty to identify crucial
issues, by its abiHty to interact with the community, and by its
abiHty to raise community issues and find out alternative
solutions to them. These are the three areas the media will have
to focus on. The importance of var6, var5, and var4 indicates
that Bhutanese people rate the abiHty of the newspaper to foster
democracy most significantly on the basis of their participatory
activities.
When Bhutan moves towards constitutional democracy the
focus of Kuensel, as weU as that of other media, should be
directed towards a participatory approach to journaHsm. The
result of this study shows that only by doing so can they
effectively turn into a strong institution that fosters democracy.
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
Table   8:   Rank   of  the   policy   induced   explanatory
variables
Rank Variable
1 var6
2 var5
3 var4
4 var7
5 var2
Conclusion
Major conclusions of this study are:
Kuensel has been rated as almost average by the respondents in
its role in fostering democracy. It earned an aggregate score of
22.66 out of a maximum of 40 (equivalent of 2.83 on a scale of 5)
on its role as an institution to foster the democratic process. The
gender-based dHference in the rating of Kuensel is very
marginal, or rather non-existent.
Kuensel's score for its contribution to generate pubHc
discussions , for focusing on corruption issues, identifying
community problems, drawing public attention towards them
and providing alternative solutions, has been below 3 on the
numeric scale which is defined as average on the corresponding
verbal scale. Why its rating is almost average is largely due to
faUure of Kuensel to highlight these issues.
The findings from linear regression for the dependent variable
(role of Kuensel in fostering democracy) on poHcy-induced
explanatory variables suggest that the rating of Kuensel in
fostering the democratic process is greatly determined by its
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
participatory approach to journaHsm as reflected by var4, var5
and var6. The r2 value for these regressions is greater than it is
for other variables. The more these issues are taken care of, the
greater would be its contribution in strengthening democracy.
As Bhutan moves towards constitutional democracy the media
wiU have to focus on a participatory approach to make it more
relevant in strengthening the democratic process.
The exogenous explanatory variables — age of the respondents
(var8) and education level of the respondents (var9)—are found
to have negative effect on the rating of Kuensel in fostering
democracy. As people grow older and as they receive higher
education, they rate Kuensel low for its abiHty to foster
democratic processes.
Only 29% of the respondents read Kuensel regularly and 26%
read it occasionaUy. Only 23% of the respondents read editorials
regularly and 8.5% of the respondents never read it. The
readership data convey that these percentages are very high as
compared to countries at a simUar level of development. From
its inception, Kuensel has greatly contributed as the
disseminator of the information and later in the 1990's it began
to induce pubHc discussion on the relevant pubHc issues. This is
quite an extraordinary achievement for a newspaper which
grew as an official buUetin of the government.
The survey findings suggest that 81.5% of the respondents never
participated in any discussions on the issues raised by Kuensel.
This could be either due to lack of a tradition that discusses
pubHc issues or due to the inability of Kuensel to prompt
discussions as it may not be raising those issues which concern
the majority. But 73% of those who conveyed having
participated in the discussions on the issues raised by Kuensel
agreed that these discussions were based on better informed
opinions due to reporting by Kuensel. Another significant
finding of the study is the fact that 56% of respondents beHeved
 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
that reporting in Kuensel, and pubHc debate initiated by it,
create pressure on poHtical leaders to discuss those issues in the
national assembly. However, this opinion becomes less strong
as the people become more educated. With the increase in
education level, Kuensel in particular and other media in
general will have to be more focused on creating pressure on
political decision-making processes.
The inability of Kuensel to highlight the issues relating to
corruption in pubHc institutions is one of the important reasons
why Kuensel's rating is low. A predominant majority (82.3%) of
the respondents were of the opinion that it is subjected to
censorship by the government. The freedom of speech and
expression provided by the draft constitution would probably
take care of this in the future and would make news reporting
more free. Increasing competition from emerging newspapers
would require that Kuensel become more focused.
References
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Graber, D.  (1984):  Media Power and Politics, CQ Press,
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Gunther R, Muhgan A (eds) (2000): 'Democracy and Media: A
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 Role of Kuensel in Fostering Democracy in Bhutan
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