Bhutan's Gross National Unhappiness: In The Wake Of The Country's First Facebook Defamation Lawsuit, Fears Of Censorship Rise

from the well,-that's-sad dept

The Kingdom of Bhutan is probably best known for its splendid location in the Himalayas, and for eschewing measurements of Gross Domestic Product in favor of Gross National Happiness. In the one Techdirt story so far about the nation, we also reported that Bhutan's government seemed to lack a sense of humor when it came to the Internet. Three years later, the online situation threatens to deteriorate further:

Bhutanese journalist Namgay Zam is facing defamation charges over a Facebook post, marking the first time that anyone in the Himalayan country has been taken to court over their social media activities.
As the detailed Global Voices post makes clear, this is a complicated story, involving not just journalists, but also senior judges and powerful business and political figures. The ramifications of this case are likely to be serious. Here's what the country's prime minister said, quoted on the Bhutanese Web site Kuensel Online:
As of now, Bhutanese are using social media in a sensible manner but often we come across news that takes an unhealthy trend. For that, we do have a social media policy coming into force where we have incorporated certain restrictions regarding what we can share on social media and what we can't share or what kind of news can come into the social media, among others.
It remains to be seen what that new policy will entail, and the extent of the censorship imposed. But it's sad to see a country that cares about maximizing national happiness taking precisely the same route as less enlightened nations.

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Filed Under: bhutan, censorship, defamation, free speech, internet


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2016 @ 2:51am

    It will be interesting to see what the "higher-ups" have to say.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 3 Sep 2016 @ 5:00am

    happiness generally entails mouth shut, ears covered, eyes blind policies when a government makes it a priority

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 3 Sep 2016 @ 9:24am

    kind of skimpy...

    ...i think a salient point is that the journo MERELY wrote a short intro that said this is so-and-so's story in her own words...
    whatever followed and was supposedly defamatory, were the words of so-and-so, not the journo...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2016 @ 12:37pm

    GNH was always a lie…

    I mean, for such a small remote country Bhutan does a decent job of improving the living standard of the majority of the population who are ethnic Bhutanese. But that doesn't mean much to the sizable ethnic Nepalese minority, who are treated like second class citizens or worse. Which is why some 100,000 of them are refugees… and they can tell you censorship in Bhutan is not new.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 4 Sep 2016 @ 11:56am

    Sad, but expected

    "But it's sad to see a country that cares about maximizing national happiness taking precisely the same route as less enlightened nations."


    Really? Because I would expect any nation that even thinks its *possible* to 'maximize national happiness' to run straight down the authoritarian government checklist as fast as they possibly can get away with it.

    This 'new' policy is completely expected - it was only a matter of time before some enterprising bureaucrat figured out that you can maximize your happiness *metrics* by forbidding people from sharing information that 'might make them unhappy' with the government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 4 Sep 2016 @ 12:33pm

    If no-one's complaining, then everyone is happy

    Making it so that there's very little to complain about takes work and lots of it, and given how people can be utterly insane at times it's pretty much impossible to please everyone at the same time.

    Making it so that you don't hear any complaints, whether because they were removed or the people who would have made them are too scared to do so on the other hand is much easier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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