Bhutan Observer was launched as Bhutan’s first private bilingual newspaper on June 2, 2006, in Thimphu. The paper followed the fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s vision to ensure a smooth transition to democracy and advance it thereafter. In 2008, when the first parliamentary elections took place, Bhutan Observer rose up to the daunting challenges of a new system and order of life. It has striven to raise the level of engagement of Bhutanese citizens in the new democratic process. Bhutan Observer is a private limited company governed by the Companies Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Run by an able team of people working in the editorial, commercial, administrative and managerial departments, it is one of the leading newspapers in Bhutan. The editorial department has won several national journalism awards ?the Best Editorial, the Best Dzongkha Edition, the Best Editorial Cartoon, and the Most Valuable Story [on Gross National Happiness].
The European Union election observation mission in 2008 commended Bhutan Observer for providing the most critical coverage of Bhutan’s first parliamentary elections.
Bhutan Observer received the National Order of Merit (Gold) from His Majesty the King on the National Day 2011.
Bhutan Observer shall be:
1. A truly Bhutanese newspaper committed to effecting positive social change
2. A socially beneficial newspaper by upholding the principles of Gross National Happiness
3. The voice for the voiceless
4. The most trusted newspaper in the country
Bhutan Observer is committed to upholding and strengthening the values and principles that bind this small, but great kingdom. We are a voice with a conscience, and our efforts are aimed at enriching people’s lives through unbiased news and information intended to inform, educate and entertain. Bhutan Observer believes that, in a fast globalising world, change is inevitable. However, we look at change as an agent of conscious positive transformation, not necessarily as a negative influence.
In a country which is highly vulnerable to forces of the outside world, it is easier and more profitable for the media to adopt foreign templates. But we are committed to engage the Bhutanese citizens in a Bhutanese way. We measure our success by what is essentially Bhutanese.
Bhutan Observer does not use crass commercial adverts or pictures of scantilyclad celebrities and explicit graphics as a means to promote itself. This has cost the paper certain segments of the urban population, especially youth, who have grown up on a diet of consumerism and popular culture. But this is the sacrifice we are willing to make.
We recognise that Bhutan’s unique values are constantly under threat from foreign media. Our youth are faced with bewildering challenges and temptations. We hope to help instill a sense of pride in what is truly Bhutanese among our youth.
Bhutan Observer believes that what sells well may not necessarily serve the society best. Therefore, we seek to look beyond news and current affairs to explore values behind them. We do this by using the Bhutanese voices telling the Bhutanese stories. We ensure that every citizen has a voice. We not only write about the rich and the powerful, the khenpos and the ministers, but also about ordinary people, who live their lives with meaning and values. Bhutan Observer also believes that while a media entity has a commercial side to it, the media are not like any other business. So, they cannot be driven by profit and market forces. We are committed to move ahead with a sense of social responsibility. We believe that our achievements are not determined by profit alone, but also by positive impact we make on society. Being a socially-responsible newspaper has meant making financially unsustainable decisions.
A healthy democracy depends on the engagement of the people. The media need to inform and empower citizens. To this end, we are committed to strengthen our nascent democracy and rule of law through engaging the people in constructive discourse and promoting responsibility and accountability.
Mast head: The Eye
The masthead was inspired by the eyes of the Buddha, which see everything with impartiality, wisdom and compassion. It is the reminder for the newspaper to function in an impartial, wise and compassionate way. It is the guiding principle for the editors?and reporters?approach to news and features. We chose only one eye for a sharper focus. When an archer takes aim, he or she uses only one eye for a sharper focus.
Mast head: The Fruitful Colour
The colour of the masthead, and that of the newspaper, is orange. It is one of the colours of Bhutan’s national flag, which symbolises fruitful endeavours. The orange colour is symbolic of a truly Bhutanese newspaper in pursuit of fruitful objectives for the society.
Opinion: The Butter Lamp
A butter lamp is the source of light and clarity where there is darkness and ignorance. When offering a butter lamp, human beings are at their most sincere and honest. The editorial section is the intellectual heart of the newspaper, the space where the writers express their opinions with honesty, wisdom and clarity to shed light on the pressing issues of the day. Bhutan Observer’s editorials have argued why Bhutan should not join World Trade Organisation, why salary rise for the MPs was unconstitutional, why political parties must be rescued, how Dzongkha could be improved, and criticised and lauded government institutions.
Voices: The Conch Shell
In Buddhism, the conch shell symbolises the fearless truth of the dharma and impartial dissemination of the Buddha’s teachings. This page offers space for the citizens to fearlessly share their opinions and stories. It is also the home of ApTsara, the newspaper’s social observer and commentator. He represents the voice and conscience of the ordinary Bhutanese by offering lighthearted commentary on the news and events. ApTsara speaks in the language of the ordinary person. His comments are laced with humour, witty innuendoes and playful sarcasm.
Economy: The Coin
A boetram, the traditional Bhutanese coin, symbolises the economy of the country. Valued long after it was out of circulation, boetram is a timeless symbol of economic activity. This page is dedicated to explaining the state of the country’s economy. It also features any business activity that has a bearing on the economic life of the nation, organisations, and individuals. This page has carried stories ranging from the national revenue and debt, mega projects and economic promises to rural banks and farmers?cooperatives selling fermented cheese and rice.
Sports: The Archer
In Bhutan, where the national sport is archery, an archer is the perfect symbol of sport. Although the Bhutanese today play a wide range of sports ?both traditional and modern ?archery remains the most popular symbol of recreational activity. The page is dedicated to sports news coming from both urban and rural areas. The page has followed national-level archery tournaments, inter-school football tournaments, Bhutan’s participation in regional sporting events and women’s khuru matches, among others.
Insight: The Sword of Wisdom
Insight is the spiritual heart of the paper where we explore the teachings of the great masters of the Himalayan Buddhist tradition. The sword of wisdom is the perfect symbol of the wealth of spiritual wisdom and social commentary.
Expression: The Acrobat
Expression is the youth page which celebrates the exuberance and creative energy of adolescents. This is what an acrobat’s feats are all about. Here, readers are our writers and writers, our readers. This page is generally aimed at secondary school students, who are encouraged to engage with the newspaper by reporting school news and events. We publish their jokes, essays and poems.
Local Buzz: The Dramnyen Player
This page, which carries local entertainment news and events, is aptly represented by the dramnyen, the traditional Bhutanese lute. This is an important section of the newspaper because it provides space for the Bhutanese entertainment glitz and glamour in a society that is rapidly exposed to foreign celebrities and undesirable entertainment trends. The page features Bhutan’s own celebrities and film stars ?heroes ?for the Bhutanese to be admired, talked about and emulated. The page has featured Bhutan’s singing stars, youthful actors and comedians, and reviewed films and entertainment events.
About Town: The Footprints
The About Town page discusses life in our urban centres, including the construction of a new dzong, climate change initiatives, conferences, and the opening of new caf? among others. The page follows the footsteps of Bhutan’s modern journey and examines the footprints.
Feature: Mask Being Removed from Face
Features take us behind the news and explore stories behind the headlines. So they are about removing the mask to see what lies behind it. This page provides fascinating insights into a wide range of issues making headlines, especially human-interest stories. Written with more literary licence, features are usually colourful. On this page, we have covered stories ranging from a farmer’s nightly battle with elephants in Sibsoo to the life of a rural cross dresser to the story of a young man in search of his wife from the previous life.
In the award-winning feature Ungar Diary, the reporter trailed a GNH survey team to a rural area and uncovered the truth about how the villagers, who had been afraid to speak openly to government officials, really felt.
Grassroots: A Group of Villagers
This page has a distinct rural focus. The roots of our kingdom are deep in the soil of our villages, and the well-being of the entire nation is contingent on the harmony and health of these communities. This page reports the successes and heartaches of our rural communities that are often out of the media’s limelight. It has carried stories about the thrill of receiving television in remote Kangpar, lack of water in Kengkhar, dilemma of an extended classroom in Mugtangkhar and farmers?cooperatives across the country, among others.
From March 2012, Bhutan Observer started publishing a page called University Today. Designed in collaboration with Royal University of Bhutan, the page is aimed at providing an alternative ?and more vibrant ?platform for the creation, dissemination, and consumption of knowledge. The page is expected to be a vital link between the institutes of higher education in the country and the public.
The Nation page carries stories of national importance. It analyzes issues and policies that affect people in the urban centres and rural pockets of our country. The stories are often aimed at informing policy makers and people at large about the state of things in the country as they are and to bring about positive economic and social changes.
The Regional page follows important developments in the Asia Pacific region. The stories for the page are carefully picked from reputed news websites in the world.
?Publicity & Advertisements
?Design & Pagination
?Printing & Publication
?Photo Archive with more than 44,000 photos
?Research & Consultancy
Editorial policy of Bhutan Observer
1. Principles of editorial policy
Bhutan Observer will
1. Promote the cause of sovereign Bhutan
2. Promote the principles of democracy enshrined in the Constitution of Bhutan
3. Uphold the principles of Gross National Happiness as the development philosophy of Bhutan
4. Respect Bhutan’s ethnic, linguistic, cultural and regional diversities
5. Report on issues concerning the Bhutanese citizens from all over the country
6. Not be affiliated to any political party or interest group
2. Commitment to seek and report truth
Bhutan Observer will
1. Publish balanced, accurate and objective news and views
2. Be open and honest in the way we gather and present news and views
3. Not publish news and views without verifying the truth
4. Not be sensational in the way we write and present news and views
3. Commitment to serve the interest of the people and nation
Bhutan Observer will
1. Uphold the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan
2. Support principles of parliamentary democracy
3. Promote accountability, transparency and responsibility by upholding the media’s watchdog role
4. Write about the lives of inspiring people
5. Help educate the public on issues of national and social importance
6. Promote dialogue between the people and the government
7. Expose problems as well as find solutions for them
4. Commitment to fairness
Bhutan Observer will
1. Be accountable to our readers
2. Present views of all sides relevant to a story
3. Treat the people we write about with dignity, respect and compassion
4. Respect the privacy of individuals
5. Correct errors promptly and run corrigenda prominently
6. Withhold the identity of news sources only in exceptional cases
5. Commitment to independence
Bhutan Observer will
1. Not allow anyone to manipulate our content
2. Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived
3. Not allow owner/management to influence or manipulate its contents
4. Not allow advertising or other commercial considerations to undermine the contents
6. Commitment to integrity
Bhutan Observer will
1. Act honourably and ethically in dealing with news sources and the public
2. Not take bribes in any form to run stories or views
3. Not bribe people for news and views
4. Not publish materials which will cause defamation, discrimination, and prejudice
5. Uphold the laws at all times
7. Letters and articles policy
1. Bhutan Observer will encourage readers to comment on our stories and editorials
2. Letters to the editor and articles must be original and should include the author’s name, address, and contact information
3. Letters and articles will be edited for language and space
4. We will not publish letters and articles that do not conform with our editorial policy
5. We will not publish letters and articles submitted to multiple outlets and those that are part of mass email campaigns
6. We will not publish letters and articles that are submitted anonymously
Code of Conduct for Bhutan Observer Journalists
This code of conduct for journalists lays down professional code of practice for journalists working with Bhutan Observer. It aims to promote the credibility of the paper as well as the journalists themselves. Every journalist will be given a copy of this code of conduct upon joining Bhutan Observer.
1. Respect issues of national interest
2. Use fair and honest means to obtain information
3. Do not use undercover news-gathering methods like the use of hidden cameras and recorders unless there is an overriding public interest
4. Always try to reveal the source of information. Anonymous sources must be quoted only with sound reasons
5. Do not use fictitious quotes and sources
6. Do not give or accept bribe of any kind
7. Do not allow advertising and other commercial considerations to undermine accuracy, fairness, and independence
8. Do not be sensational
9. Cover grief and trauma with sensitively
10. Respect sources?privacy
11. Do not identify children under 18 who are involved in a crime or a court case
12. Do not identify, directly or by association, a victim of a sexual offence
13. Avoid unnecessary reference to a person’s or a group’s ethnic background, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and physical and mental conditions
14. Do not plagiarize
15. Do not allow personal interest, belief, commitment or benefit to undermine accuracy, fairness, and independence
16. Do not use a journalistic position for personal gain
17. Do not use images that may be disturbing to the readers
18. Do not doctor pictures and images
19. Always try to give fair correction of errors