Bhutan Observer

Bhutan Observer
PublisherBhutan Observer Pvt. Ltd.
FoundedJune 2, 2006
LanguageEnglish, Dzongkha
HeadquartersThimphu, Bhutan
CirculationAll over Bhutan
Phuntso Wangmo, CEO of Bhutan Observer, and Needrup Zangpo, Editor-in-Chief, with the National Order of Merit, awarded by His Majesty, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, on December 17, 2011.

The Bhutan Observer was Bhutan's first private bilingual newspaper. It was launched as a private limited company by parent company Bhutan Media Services (BMS), and began publishing on June 2, 2006, in Thimphu. Its Dzongkha edition was called Druk Nelug, and the newspaper maintained an online service in English until 2013.[1][2]

The newspaper employed about 60 people in editorial, commercial, administrative, and managerial departments. The editorial department won several national journalism awards for the best editorial, best Dzongkha issue, best editorial cartoon, and the most valuable story on Gross National Happiness.[3][4] The former Executive Editor, Sonam Kinga, was one of several relatively young individuals to make an early entry into newly democratic Bhutanese politics in 2007, winning a seat and leadership position in the kingdom's first National Council elections.[5][6]

As Bhutan began developing its private media sector, fledgling media outlets including the Bhutan Observer faced scrutiny by public figures over novice reporting, misquoted sources, and viewpoint biases with the effect of presenting overly sensational and negative coverage in articles.[7] Language of publication has also become a significant issue, as government language requirements strain publishers' budgets.

Druk Nelug

The Dzongkha edition, Druk Nelug, was published in compliance with government media language requirements.[2][8] While Dzongkha is the national language, it is not spoken natively among the majority of Bhutanese.[9] Among the general population, Dzongkha abilities have improved, but still need development according to a Bhutan Observer editor. Despite language reforms and improved public competency, many Bhutanese find English easier to read, speak, and write.[10]

Amid concerns of the long term sustainability of the Bhutan Observer and other media's Dzongkha editions, the government in 2007 began to subsidize the translation of English language advertisements into Dzongkha, and granted exemptions from sales tax and import duties. The tax breaks were set to expire after a period of five years, but may be renewed.[11] Both the Dzongkha Druk Nelug and English language Bhutan Observer were heavily subsidized by government advertisements within a marketing industry subject to significant government control on a policy basis.[12] In 2011, nearing the five year mark and having neither approached sustainability nor obtained tangible government support, the Observer requested that the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) allow it to discontinue publication of Druk Nelug; that request was denied. The newspaper said it would abide by the government's decision, but that the Druk Nelug might be reduced to a symbolic publication due to its commercial infeasibility.[8]

End of Print Publication

On August 1, 2013, the Bhutan Observer announced the end of its printed edition. It continued as an online publication which also ended in 2016.[13][14]


See also


  1. ^ "Two Private Newspapers to Start in April". Kuensel online. 2006-02-01. Archived from the original on 2013-06-05. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  2. ^ a b "About Us". Bhutan Observer online. Archived from the original on 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  3. ^ "Journalists Decorated with Awards". AFPA News online. 2009-05-05. Archived from the original on 2012-07-21. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  4. ^ "Media Award – The Winners Are…". Bhutan Broadcasting Service online. 2007-05-04. Archived from the original on 2012-03-28. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  5. ^ Raj, Mitra (2007-04-15). "I Am Capable". Bhutan Times online. Archived from the original on 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  6. ^ Gyelmo, Dawa (2011-06-17). "NC Opposes NA's Decision of Removal". Kuensel online. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  7. ^ Pelvar, Sonam (2008-09-17). "Media Under Scrutiny". Bhutan Times online. Archived from the original on 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  8. ^ a b Tenzin, Tashi (2011-04-21). "Proposal to Drop Dzongkha Edition Shot Down". Kuensel online. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  9. ^ "Languages of Bhutan". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (16 (online) ed.). SIL International. Retrieved 2011-10-01. Kingdom of Bhutan... [population] 637,000... [Dzongkha speakers number] 160,000 in Bhutan (2006).
  10. ^ Pelvar, Sonam (2008-10-01). "Befriending Dzongkha - Despite the Desperate Battle against English, Dzongkha Simplification Continues". Bhutan Times online. Archived from the original on 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  11. ^ Tshering, Kinley (2007-05-13). "Government to Support Print Media". Bhutan Times online. Archived from the original on 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  12. ^ Wangdi, Phuntsho (2010-04-16). "Draft Circulated for Feedback". Kuensel online. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  13. ^ Wangmo, Phuntsho (2013-08-01). "Publisher's Note". Bhutan Observer online. Archived from the original on 2013-08-17. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  14. ^ "Bhutan Observer suspends their print edition". Bhutan Broadcasting Service online. 2013-08-06. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  15. ^ "His Majesty awards National Order of Merit". Archived from the original on 2017-05-02. Retrieved 2017-05-02.
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