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Government blocks local access to website

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ describes Bhutan government's censorship of bhutantimes.com as "hypocritical"

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed by recent blocks placed upon the media by the Bhutanese government.

According to the Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA), the http://www.bhutantimes.com website has been blocked from local viewing by the Information, Communication and Media Authority (BICMA), following orders issued by the government.

"We strongly urge the Bhutanese government to overturn this decision, which can only be described as blatant censorship, and allow the Bhutanese people full access to the bhutantimes.com," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"It is a hypocritical move by the government to block local access to this website, particularly after taking so many positive steps towards a freer media, such as allowing the introduction of media privatisation last year," Park said.

The website has proven to be a popular outlet for local readers to express their views on critical national affairs through interactive discussions, reports APFA.

This incident highlights a growing concern about the future for Bhutanese news outlets on the internet, as the bhutantimes.com became the second website to be blocked by the government.

According to IFJ sources, bhutannews.com was also censored by the government, after it hosted forum discussions critical of the minister Sangey Nidup, the maternal uncle of the present Crown King. The site has since collapsed.

The IFJ argues the government's actions is an attack on freedom of expression and is compromising the Bhutanese people's right to information.

"This issue requires serious attention and immediate action if the government is serious about moving towards a freer and open society," Park said.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries.

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