Bhutan has been the most reclusive among all of the South Asian countries and throughout its history it has mostly remained closed for the outsiders. However, recently this mysterious and breathtakingly beautiful Himalayan kingdom gradually started opening up its doors to the outside world as it began its journey towards embracing democracy. The transition from absolute monarchy to multi-party democracy has been a huge stride forward for Bhutan. The first democratic elections in this nation began in 2007 but the roots of this transformation had been laid a bit earlier in December 2006 when the fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, abdicated all of his powers as King to his son, Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. This was a well thought out move carried out with the particular motive of readying the young King for the country’s political metamorphosis in to a multi-party democracy.
Incidentally, 2006 was also the year when Bhutan’s first independent newspaper started. The name of this newspaper was ‘Bhutan Times’ and it started circulating the nation in April, 2006. This was a giant leap forward for the media of Bhutan as prior to this all media here had been government owned. In the later part of the same year, Bhutan got its second independent newspaper named ‘Bhutan Observer’. Today Bhutan has one government majority-owned newspaper and five private newspapers that operate freely and have the freedom to criticize government policies when they don’t agree with them. This might seem quite natural to the outsiders but it’s a completely new experience for the residents of Bhutan who have lived an era where saying anything against the government was a taboo. According to Bunty Avieson, who worked as a consultant for ‘Bhutan Observer’, the people of Bhutan were not used to looking at their culture from an outsider’s point of view.
Now that the residents of Bhutan have started to get used to democracy and its underlying principles, they have become more comfortable with looking inside their own culture and even discussing the problems and issues that need to be addressed. In earlier times, everything was accepted as is because no criticism was allowed and there wasn’t even any platform for bringing up societal issues. Until the year 1999, Bhutan did not have television and that explains how far it was lagging behind the rest of the world. Today, things have started to change and social media has been a major factor behind bringing about this change. The social media revolution in Bhutan has propelled the country many decades forward in a very short span of time. Despite the fact that it ventured into the web age late, online networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have caught on very quickly in the country.
Today there are an expected 80,000 Facebook clients in Bhutan, which amounts to more than 10 percent of its populace. Buddhist Bhutan used to be a profoundly restricted nation where contradiction and feedback were uncommon. Be that as it may, online networking is providing an open platform to Bhutanese youth where they can express their perspectives and power positive change.