Sunday, November 6, 2011

Media, Democracy, and Civic Engagement.

Media is an important agent of change in Bhutan. So the importance of the media was emphasized when there was a Royal kasho (Decree) on the independent existence of media in the year 1992. Again later in 2009 His majesty the fifth king supported the independence of media.  Since then the media started growing and developing in Bhutan.
 As Bhutan became the world’s youngest democracy in 2008, media have been playing vital roles, educating peoples about democracy, elections, and other important aspects. Their roles have increased to truthfulness, transparency, accountability, report on disadvantage, and providing space for people to share their ideas. One of the important roles media plays is strengthening the voice and roles of the grass root level, where people are given space to share their thoughts and ideas.
Media’s roles particularly in a democratic country like Bhutan become indispensable. The fact remains with the decentralization of power from the throne as a gift to the people, every citizen of the nation has the right to claim the gift by participating in decision makings.
Conversations and exchange of dialogue become vital aspects of democracy. It is a powerful agent of change in the democratic society. Therefore creating democratic understanding through social media is one important role media must play.
Let’s ask a question to ourselves, what is civic engagement?
The answer to the question determines the sustainability of vibrant democracy, which means people are required to participate in interactive deliberation to ground on common understanding. This will enable our system of democracy to function well and stand strong in the world.
 With the importance of three diverse topics: media, democracy and civic engagement, a two days seminar was held in Paro College of education with the aim of educating the future teachers, and directly or indirectly, youths of Bhutan. As a participant in the seminar the councilors and deputy councilors from the college were invited. There were around thirty participants approximately. I as one of the participants felt, it was extremely informative. It gave us the clear scenario of democratic society, the work it perform and its crucial function. We also came to know the responsibility of citizen, particularly as a teacher in media.
During the seminar they shared on the lack of youth engagement in democracy. An in-depth discussion raises number of questions to reflect upon, such as how the teacher can encourage youth in media? How to address the media problems and concept of democracy?
Emphasize was given on youth, as a citizen having greater role in democracy. They have right to raise their voices as a subject of change. Now the change in youth must begin from teacher as key feature of transformation and shaping. Those changes in children must be included and addressed in the course of lessons. Vital information and issue should be discussed with students and teachers, for examples these two issues could be discussed with students: “Should tobacco be band in Bhutan” or “Should abortion be legalize”. Educator need to think about different methodology and pedagogy to provide platform for youth so that they become future citizen in democracy.
Providing opportunities for children in decision making in the school and classroom are indirect way of involving children in media and democracy. They can argue and talk about the different topic in the class and also issue related to schools and subjects. Forming a group and club are another alternative where children can accommodate new ideas and function as a qualitative forum to share ideas and thoughts.

 By:      Dawa
Editor: Gretchen Legler
            Visiting Professor
            Paro college of Education