The National Assembly passed the Right to Information Bill on February 5, 2014. But before that, many in Bhutan had been debating about this bill since it was first introduced in parliament in May 2012. As part of its Bhutan Development Forum, our local partner, QED, conducted a panel discussion on January 17, 2014, on the Right to Information Bill, which was tabled during the second Parliamentary session. The forum gave an opportunity for five panelists from government and press sectors to express their views on the bill and was moderated by India’s foremost supporter of the RTI Act, Mr. Venkatesh Nayak, Program Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s RTI program.
Through the forum, Mr. Nayak shared stories of India’s struggle in passing the RTI Act through their Parliament and their journey since then. The forum was also a platform for stakeholders and participants to discuss the bill independently as well as in comparison to the Indian RTI Act and to express their views and concerns. Although the question among most of the critics was whether Bhutan is ready for such an act, it was the common consensus that the bill was definitely a move in the right direction for a young democracy.
Panelists were the Honourable Sangay Khandu, Member of the National Council; Mr. Passang Dorji, President of Journalists Association of Bhutan; Mr. Nidup Zangpo, Editor of Bhutan Observer (a local online newspaper); Mr. Tenzing Lamsang, Editor-in-Chief of the Bhutanese (a local newspaper); and Ms. Tshering Yangden from the Ministry of Information and Communications. This forum was conducted by QED with support from the Friedrich Nauman Foundation, the Bhutan Foundation, and the International Republican Institute.