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Freedom of the Press 2008 - Mongolia

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 29 April 2008
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - Mongolia, 29 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4871f61d28.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 13 (of 30)
Political Environment: 13 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 12 (of 30)
Total Score: 38 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Freedom of speech and of the press are protected by law, and the government generally respects these rights in practice. However, media freedom was compromised somewhat in 2007 owing to ongoing legal harassment and financial difficulties facing journalists. Censorship of public information is banned under the 1998 Media Freedom Law and the State Secrets Law limits access to government information to a degree, as many archived historical records have been given classified status. The government monitors media content for compliance with antiviolence, antipornography, and antialcohol content restrictions. The filing of criminal and civil defamation suits by officials in the wake of critical articles also remains problematic, with a quarter of journalists reportedly affected. In April and May, criminal charges were filed against a reporter and editor of Zuuny Medee newspaper over articles accusing an MP of corruption. The case was pending at year's end. In August, former government spokesperson Ninjiin Demberel was sentenced to four months in prison for criminal defamation for an article and TV program he published, though the sentence was later commuted to a fine. The courts have not proven to be a bulwark against such harassment, particularly because Mongolian civil law places the burden on the defendant to prove the truth of the statement at issue. Thus, in a 2006 study of 36 press-related criminal and civil defamation cases in the capital Ulaanbaatar, the local NGO Globe International found that the media had lost in almost 55 percent of cases, won in only 10 percent and had 35 percent settled out of court. As such, to avoid being sued for libel, many independent publications practice a degree of self-censorship.

While no direct government censorship exists, journalists complain of indirect forms of censorship such as harassment and intimidation, as well as pressure from the authorities to reveal confidential sources. In February 2007, police prevented journalist G. Erdenetuya from photographing the site of a helicopter crash that killed over a dozen people. In June 2007, the manager of a restaurant in Ulaanbaatar beat and kicked a reporter trying to photograph his store. The journalist was rebuffed when attempting to report the attack to the local police station and no investigation ensued.

Although independent print media outlets are common and popular in cities, the main source of news in the vast countryside is the formerly state-owned Radio Mongolia. Under the new Law on the Public Radio and TV passed in January 2005, state-owned radio and television broadcasting outlets, like Radio Mongolia, are transitioning into public service broadcasting operations, but progress has been slow. Both the state-owned and public media still frequently experience political pressures, and most provincial media outlets continue to be controlled by local authorities. Mongolians have access to local, privately owned television stations, English-language broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Voice of America on private FM stations, and, in Ulaanbaatar, foreign television programming via cable and commercial satellite systems. Owing to widespread poverty in Mongolia, the internet has yet to serve as a significant source of information and, according to media watchdogs, journalists frequently seek payments to cover or fabricate stories. In this country of 2.5 million, only 220,000 people are internet users, or slightly more than 10 percent of the population.

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