Social media would be debacle for free and fair election

In the new frontier in freedom of expression, another platform has been opened with the advent of the internet and the social media. In this digital age, the internet offers new opportunity for freedom beyond the traditional reach of government information and conventional media.

In Article 7 of The Constitution of The Kingdom of Bhutan-in Fundamental Rights, it states “A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech, opinion and expression.”

Through the different platforms of social media, people can raise their voices. They can argue and fuss, take sides, fight to make their point, good or bad, right or wrong, right or left, it is the sharing of ideas and the freedom to share those ideas that truly matter.

The digital form of journalism or citizen journalism has become an integral part of our cherished political legacy as it offers new scope and invaluable tool of ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections in the country.

However, usage of social media un-holistically would be a debacle for free and fair election. 

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) called for Local Governance (LG) election 22 December. Aspiring candidates for the different LG posts and their supporters must have started to create a social media groups without approval from ECB. This practice was witnessed during the recent bye-election and even in 2018 parliamentary election.

Unethical usage of social media violates electoral laws. There are misinformation, disinformation and malinformation.  Therefore, concern authorities have to strictly monitor the usage of social media by the public during the election period to conduct free and fair election. Citizens should be educated on rules and regulations of social media. Prompt action should be taken against the violators.

As framed in the Social Media Rules and Regulations of ECB, “every user of the social media to carry out oversight duty and report to the election authorities any violation,” individuals or candidates should report to the concern authority. The root of bad practices should be rooted in order to have free and fair election.    

Hence, the ECB can fulfill the mandate of Election Act mandates the Election Commission to conduct “all elections to Parliament and Local Governments as well as of holding of National Referendums under the Constitution in a free and fair manner.”