Through the Lens: Life and Politics in Asia | Society | South Asia

Journalist Namgay Zam Leaves Bhutan: Brain Drain in Action

The Diplomat visited Zam in Kathmandu to speak to her about her decision to leave Bhutan.

Journalist Namgay Zam Leaves Bhutan: Brain Drain in Action

Namgay Zam, the most well-known face on television in Bhutan, has left the country after an emotionally draining legal battle with an influential businessman who had accused her of defamation due to a social media posting. She arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal days after the litigant chose to withdraw the case just as the verdict was ready to be announced.

Zam, formerly a news anchor with Bhutan Broadcasting Service, had earlier alleged she was a victim of a “witch hunt” started by Bhutan’s Chief Justice Tshering Wangchuk. Zam had used social media to re-post an online petition written by a young doctor against the judge’s father-in-law, the petitioner in the defamation suit.

International media reported on the case as a test of Bhutan’s press freedom, but most of Zam’s journalist colleagues remained mum on the issue, apparently out of fear due to the association of the country’s highest judge in the suit.

“There’s an extremely high level of self-censorship,” Zam says.

The case was withdrawn in January.

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The journalist says she is excited about her new stint as the deputy editor with Onward Nepal, a media start-up, but also “a little sad.” Like her, many other young Bhutanese professionals are leaving the country, many of them moving to Australia and willing to take up even menial jobs. Bhutan appears to be experiencing a brain drain. Zam, at least, is a reluctant emigre.

“Given a chance, I’d have loved to stay in Bhutan,” she says.