Basic Data


Official Country Name: Kingdom of Bhutan
Region (Map name): East & South Asia
Population: 2,005,222
Language(s): Dzongkha
Literacy rate: 42.2%

Bhutan is a small country in South Asia that had a population of about 2 million in 2001. (Official statistics do not include people of Nepalese origin and thus place the count at 800,000.) Nearly 90 percent of the population lives in rural areas. The literacy rate is nearly 42 percent. The four main languages spoken in Bhutan are Dzongkha (the national language and spoken largely in Western Bhutan), English (the language of instruction), Nepalese (with its dialects spoken by close to 1 million people of Nepalese origin in Bhutan), and Sharchopkha (spoken in Eastern Bhutan). The main occupations, which employ 94 percent of the population and account for 40 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, include agriculture, animal husbandry, and forestry.

Bhutan is a monarchy, run by a king and a unicameral Tshogdu (National Assembly). Jigme Singye Wang-chuk has been the king of Bhutan since 1972. He has paved the way for a gradual modernization of this traditional country. His slogan is that Gross National Happiness ( Gakid ) is more important than Gross National Product.

Journalism is fairly small-scale and new to the country of Bhutan. Bhutan has only one newspaper, one radio station, one television station, and one Internet provider, Druknet, which was started in 1999. The government monitors these enterprises closely, under the guise of preserving culture and tradition, and restricts freedom of speech and the press. Bhutan's only regular publication is Kuensel , a weekly newspaper that is published and controlled by the government. Its circulation is about 10,000, and editions are published in Dzongkha English, and Nepalese. An online version of the newspaper was introduced in 1999. The government ministries regularly monitor the subject content and have the constitutional right to prevent or alter publication of the content. There are no tabloids published in Bhutan, but some Indian and Nepalese tabloids are available.

In 1989, the Bhutan government banned reception of all private television and ordered dismantling of satellite dishes and antennas. It introduced a local television service through the Bhutan Broadcasting Service. In early 2002, the daily programming consisted of about four hours of programs with half of it in Dzongkha and the other half in English. The programs consisted of imported programs from other countries, such as the British Broadcasting Corporation and Doordarshan (India). In 1997 it was estimated that about 11,000 television sets were being used in Bhutan.

Bhutan's one radio station includes one short-wave program and one daily FM broadcast from Thimphu, the national capital. In 1997 it was estimated that there were about 37,000 radios in Bhutan.

Bhutan is a traditional country that is slowly modernizing but resists Western influences. In such milieu, the press has focused more on providing information to the people, assuming an objective reporting style, and serving as the long arm of the government.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2001 . Directorate of Intelligence. Available from .

Central Statistical Organization, Planning Commission. Bhutan at a Glance . Thimphu, Bhutan, 1999.

Cooper, Robert. Bhutan . New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2001.

Dompnier, Robert. Bhutan: Kingdom of the Dragon . Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1999.

Karan, Pradyumana P. Bhutan: Environment, Culture, and Development Strategy . Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, 1990.

Planning Commission. Eighth Five Year Plan 1997-2002. Thimphu: Royal Government of Bhutan, 1998.

Savada, Andrea M. Bhutan Country Study . Washington, DC: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1993.

Manoj Sharma

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