Sunday, September 16, 2012

Draft ECB Social Media Policy 2012

I finally managed to get hold of a copy of the Draft of the ECB Social Media Policy 2012. As I said in my earlier post on the subject, ECB’s website does not carry a copy of the Draft. I am told that it is available on Facebook. But I am neither on Facebook nor on Tweeter. So I did a bit of legwork and managed to locate a hard copy with a friend.

I read the Draft - my conclusion: A set of confused and contradictory document, but a dangerous one, nonetheless. In particular, there is one sentence in the Preamble that bothers me:

“……. hereby adopts the ECB Social Media Policy 2012 to ensure proper usage of social media by the ECB, election officials, Political Parties, Candidates and their supporters as well as the media agencies in all matters related to elections, during or outside the Election Period”.

The extension of the rule to cover “supporters of the political parties and their candidates” and the coverage of a period “outside the Election Period” bothers me. I have not been able to get hold of a copy of the Election Commission Act so I am not sure if their authority and mandate encompasses periods beyond and outside the election period and whether they can impose their will on the common voters and the supporters of political parties and their candidates.

I read Chapter 16 Election Code of Conduct of the Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2008. The Act does not mention anything about “supporters” of a political party or their candidates. The closest reference the Act makes is when it states:

      290.  No candidate or political party shall permit any other
                 person to carry out election campaign on his/her or
                 its behalf, except by person authorized under this Act.
But "any other person" referred to above need not necessarily be a supporter of a political party or its candidates. But even here, it holds the political party responsible to ensure compliance of the rules on behalf of the "other persons"

According to the Draft ECB Social Media Policy 2012, it prohibits supporters from promoting and canvassing on behalf of the party they support.

This effectively renders every voter in the country as: APOLITICAL. This is ridiculous and can cause a lot of problems. Every individual with any intelligence ought to have a party that he/she supports - for whatever reason. If he/she does not, then the person is no better than a zombie. I most definitely support a party that I believe has the wherewithal to take this country forward and I definitely intend to canvass and speak on its behalf. The ECB cannot take away that right from me.

The act or the intention behind an individual supporting a party fulfills a fundamental duty of a voter - the responsibility to vote in a party that he/she believes is good for the country. The ECB cannot throttle my endeavors to promote a party that I believe is the most competent and able.

I do not believe in the hype that social media will influence the outcome of the 2013 elections. It may - marginally but only in the urban centers. However, the bulk of the voters are in the rural villages. Their votes will be the bigger influence. We cannot cite the examples of impact of social media in other countries because our level of Internet connectivity and basic literacy rate is way, way below those in other countries. Thus, my objections do not arise from the fear that the Internet savvy, the well heeled and the well connected will be the movers and shakers of the 2013 elections.

I object because the ECB is, through the proposed Draft Social Media Policy 2012, trying to infringe on our individual rights and our privacy. This is dangerous and every Bhutanese must object to the contemplation of such a draconian and undemocratic rule.

I am aware that what the ECB proposes will be near impossible to implement. We neither have the technical skills, nor the financial resources, to implement what is being proposed. Therefore, I know that even if the rule gets passed, it will be among the many rules that will remain unenforceable.

I bring up the issue because I am appalled at the thought that the ECB is proposing something that totally contradicts their mandate. It is a dangerous idea. The ECB is a constitutional body that carries the express mandate to protect and enthuse the practice of wholesome democratic culture. It is preposterous that the same institution should propose a rule that would result in the deprivation of the most fundamental rights that democracy grants to the people.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the enlightening post. It was very informative.