Rousing suspicions that Bhutan's government does not appreciate the humor of political satire blog Bhutanomics, the website was blocked on January 12, 2013 from a major internet service provider with no explanation or warning.
In less than one year of existence since launching in March 2012, the group blog has created ripples in Bhutan's political sphere with a series of satirical report cards for politicians and government officials, and as a popular open platform for anonymous government criticism and political analysis.
Bhutanomics has also been criticized for slander and lack of editorial oversight. According to its about page, it's a non-partisan website sustained only via donations.
On January 12, the following was reported through the blog's Facebook page:
Some very powerful people in Bhutan dont like us. Our website (http://bhutanomics.com/) is no longer accessible from Bhutan.
Minjur Dorji reports at The Bhutanese:
Bhutanomics.com, a satirical website has been blocked by Druknet, one of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country. This was confirmed by a Druknet employee though he and his colleagues did not share who gave the instructions to do so.
Nobody is really sure whether the website is operated within the country or the webmaster resides outside Bhutan.
Suspicions of censorship are heightened because Bhutanomics is only inaccessible on Druknet, the main ISP operated by state-owned Bhutan Telecom. It is still accessible through private ISPs like Tashi Cell and Samden. The site is also accessible through proxy websites, via social media and by users abroad.According to news reports, both the Druknet General Manager, Tshering Norbu, and Media Officer of Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority, Lakshuman Chhetri, have denied blocking the site.
Rinzin comments on the above mentioned article:
The blocking of Bhutannomics will push Bhutan into an elite club of countries like North Korea, China, Iran and Syria where the internet is actively controlled by the government to block critical websites.
The Bhutanomics blog posts an open letter to the Bhutanese Prime Minister that was originally posted by Jamyang Y. S. as a comment on the site.
If a government cannot uphold itself to the criticism by its subjects, then how will the government function? I believe it is the criticism that can be used as a check and balance to see how your party is doing, and the true health of your governing system. I believe that when you take on to become a politician, it is only natural that there will be criticism – both critical and cynical, but it is up to you how you hold on to it.
Blogger Peldhen Sonam Nima wonders whether the ban will do any good for the country:
Bhutanomics entertained me. Its been a source of so many interesting happenings. I liked the satire part which has link especially to Bhutanese Political setting. [..]
I think it has updates on all the famous Bhutanese personalities. Its understandable why my fellas in Bhutan will miss the Banned blog. [..]
They are all people who have the potential to either make or break Bhutan! I think any Bhutanese deserve to know both plus points and minus points of those individuals.
Monu GhishYing Tamang opines that:
Bhutan is a young democracy which requires adequate criticism to grow strong. Criticism should not be taken in a wrong way, it must be the correction fluid to erase our follies.
However the blogger also thinks that a number of writers and contributors of Bhutanomics need to reveal their identity for the sake of credibility.