The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has drafted the Social Media Rules and Regulations prior to the upcoming 2013 elections. During the election period, the policy is to be followed by political parties and voters alike. The Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan Dasho Kunzang Wangdi talks to Business Bhutan reporter Saraswati Sundas on the social media policy of the country on elections.
Q. What is the status of the Social Media Policy?
ECB’s Social Media Rules and Regulations 2012 have been issued. The text is available on our website and can also be obtained from the nearest Election Office around the country. A printed version will be distributed as soon as it is published.
Q. What role do you think social media will play in the upcoming elections and why is it important to have such a policy?
It is a very convenient and powerful but a cost effective medium to share information. It will benefit everyone. The Social Media Rules and Regulations objectives is to promote responsible use of the Social Media for effective communication among electoral stakeholders, ensure a level playing field for all the contestants and Political Parties in the use of Social Media in an election and Prevent and control any violation of the Electoral Laws in the use of Social Media in elections in Bhutan.
Q. Do you think the emergence of new websites which are against a particular political party healthy for democracy? Will the social media policy regulate such websites?
For the very reason we want everyone to be aware of the usefulness of social media and also set norms for its usage so that all stakeholders could use it for positive purpose. We have also formulated rules to restrain misuse and abuse.
Q. How does ECB plan to monitor what citizens and interest groups are constantly posting in the social media?
We do not intend to use this tool purely to restrict but encourage it to be used for positive purposes and objectives. In this regard, we as a democracy expect all actors to conduct themselves responsibly and decently as expected of them under the rules and code of conduct provided therein.
Q. How seriously will the ECB implement the policy? For instance an individual or a group makes a comment in light of the 48-hour veto or passes personal attacks. Will ECB go to the extent of tracking him/her?
We will have arrangements in place to monitor and detect infractions and will have a functioning redressal system to attend to any complaints or misuses. If reported and/or detected ECB will have no choice but to address it with appropriate punitive actions.
Q. What kind of consequences will violators face?
All penalties that will merit an issue being violated under the laws of the Land would be invoked. We only wish there will never be an occasion for us to resort to adjudication. However, as a democracy the rule of law will apply to all.