Saturday, November 7, 2009

Where is the equality in the media?

The Prime Minister, during the first of its kind meeting between the government and the civil servants on 10 January at the banquet hall said that the government fully supports the media. He said that their arms are wide open for cooperation with the media.

Since I was there covering the event, when he said so, for a moment I was carried away by his talks about the cooperation between the government and the media and drifted away to another world.
Bang! I came back to the very existence and realized that that was not the case. I wanted to stand up and tell him and make him aware of the reality but probably the fact that I am totally new in the field held me back from doing so.

Talking about reality, I am going to draw comparisons from my own and experiences of some of my colleagues. I am not sure whether other media people have gone through the same experiences like me because I never had the guts to ask them. Or perhaps, to be honest, I was scared that they would take us to be inefficient if what I tell sounded all Greek to them.

It’s been three months since BHUTAN TODAY came into existence. People! I tell you, it’s been difficult for us to gain a foothold in the market. People might say, ‘it is a piece of cake to run a daily paper’. I say, come and work with us for just a week and you will know how wrong you were in assuming so.

We have been burning the candle at both ends to satisfy the readers. To be honest, only a few have taken note of our hard work. No matter how well we have improved, some simply don’t stop complaining.

Most often, we have been given a step- motherly treatment and it was not only in the initial stages. We are being treated in the same manner even now.

I really want to give details of the persons who have refused to talk to us when we went to interview them. Through this opinion, I feel like hitting them directly and at the same time let the higher authority know about these people by clearly giving out their name, designation and the ministry or the department that they work for but (sigh), being a journalist, there are journalistic ethics that I need to follow. So, all those officials, who shut their doors on our face, you should be thankful to me for being ethical unlike yourselves.

Consider this: One of my colleagues went to meet one of the officials in November last year and she came back to office feeling so down and ill treated by the person, who according to his post, should be better mannered than the others.

The PA made my colleague stand outside the person’s door while she went inside to ask for his permission. The PA (since they are normally women) was a soft spoken person so my colleague couldn’t hear what the PA said to the person but she clearly heard the person, in quite a loud voice, say, ‘Ghachi ghi media. Nga mhi sey lab (What media! Tell them I am not here)’! Unbelievable? Believe it.

He was right there, sitting on his fat bottom and he had the guts to make the PA tell my col¬league that he was not there in the office! How can he be so cruel? Now, do you agree with me when I say that he didn’t behave according to his post? I bet you do.

Now consider this: On 28 Jan¬uary, we heard about a meeting taking place in one of the ministries and sent a reporter right away to cover the news. The meeting had just started when my colleague reached there but he was worried to barge in directly with the fear that he may interrupt. There was a person outside who offered to go inside to get the permission from the person who headed the meeting.

Guess what my colleague heard from inside? The person said, “Damn the media!” My colleague politely and sarcasti¬cally, said, “Laso la,” and came back to office fuming.

These two persons may have got up on the wrong side of the bed, but that should not be the reason for displaying one’s rage on others. However, the question is would they have treated other media people in the same manner? I guess not.

Every one wants to be on TV. I remember a day when a colleague and I went to cover a particular event after which we needed to interview quite a number of people. Excluding me, there were two other media people.

When time came to interview them, everyone preferred to talk to the TV people. We got to interview only those who didn’t get their chance with the TV. Yet, while talking to us, their eyes wandered to wherever the TV people went. We were the last option.

Also, officials saying ‘yes’ to interviews depend on the chronology of establishment of the various media organisation, meaning the preference goes to the one who has been in the market from a long time (of course, TV is their first preference). If that’s the pattern of thinking in our officials, even after hundred years, BHUTAN TODAY will still remain the youngest. Does that mean we will be last in anyone’s agenda?

We have not only been discarded with regards to getting interviews, it’s the same with getting advertisements to be published in our paper. The marketing division normally has a tough time when it comes to getting ads on a daily basis. Why? People prefer to give ads even to a radio but not to us.

Some even go to the extent of saying ‘do a story on us and we will definitely give you ads’! I am not sure if other media organizations face the same problem, but we do for sure.

Once, the concerned ministry announced that advertisements should be distributed equally to all the media organization but people seldom follow it. When older media organization manages to get about three to four pages of ads in one issue, how come we don’t?

Initially, we would all blame the marketing staffs in our company as we would think that they were not doing a good job. But, gradually, we realized they were doing their best in going from one office to another but facing hostility and humility from all ends.

When there is any important meeting taking place in any ministry or department or any organization, other media organizations are informed before the clock by any means (readers’ discretion required here on which media I am talking about). We are hardly informed.

Press releases would come to us once in a blue moon up till the second session of the parliament. For some reason, we started receiving more press releases yet not from everyone. Some people religiously send us the press releases yet if we compare this to the ones who don’t, I must say only twenty percent of the concerned authority has acknowledged us.

Where do we see equality and justice here? It’s a far fetched term that many need to learn.