Sonam Pelden - Journalism in Asia Today


What is your day-to-day task in your publication/organisation?

My daily tasks involve planning stories for the day, assigning stories to reporters, editing and almost everything in between. I am also engaged in handling administration work for the newsroom and grooming new reporters while ensuring that the pages meet the deadline. 

What is the greatest challenge in journalism today in this region?

The decline in trust for mainstream journalism against the onslaught of fake news is one of the biggest challenges confronting journalism today. Sustainability is another factor that impedes quality journalism.

How important is journalism in Asia?

Journalism will always remain significant to a society. How it develops reflects the pulse of a society and for a developing Asia, journalism has an even more important role to play. It has the responsibility to not only document a changing Asia but also engage people in discourse on issues that matter to them.  It has to inform responsibly for people to make informed decisions.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from another journalist in Asia?

Kinley Dorji, former editor of Kuensel, says that for journalists, the right to ask questions come with the responsibility to find answers. Journalism, he believes is not work, but a calling. It is not activism, but public service. The media are not political opposition but analysts of politics. Journalism is a responsibility.

What do you think is the most important issue/story in your country/region?

Poverty and the politics of poverty remain one of the important issues for the country and the region. The issue has social, economic and political consequences and despite efforts, poverty remains inadequately addressed. What compounds this issue for the region is the threat of climate change.

What are you most optimistic about as a journalist in Asia?

As a developing region, Asia today signifies hope. Hope is confidence and sensing this in the conscience of the region gives journalists a sense of optimism. Our responsibilities to expose wrongdoing and inform will not change but when societies evolve, they are more informed about the importance of media. The increased access to information online means more people are engaging in discourses. This enhances the need for responsible journalism.

What does it mean to be a journalist in Asia, as compared to the rest of the world?

A journalist is a journalist no matter which part of the world you are reporting from. Yet, the political dynamics of the region do make it challenging for journalists here to report issues in depth. Being a journalist in Asia means accepting that the society may not be as open and forthcoming to engage in discourses.

Sonam Pelden (Bhutan) is the news editor of Kuensel, Bhutan’s main newspaper. She covers various national issues and guides junior reporters. She was selected for the Asia Journalism Fellowship in 2014.

Journalism in Asia is a collection of portraits and interviews from influential journalists in Asia presented every Monday morning. 

Zakaria Zainal