Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2002 - Brunei Darussalam

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 3 May 2002
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2002 - Brunei Darussalam, 3 May 2002, available at: [accessed 20 October 2017]
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.

In 2001, the Sultanate passed its first press law, which calls for prison sentences of up to three years and heavy fines for press offences. It can be used to sanction journalists of the country's only two private publications.

On 19 September 2001, the government published, in the official gazette, an amendment called the "Local Newspapers Order 2001". This first press law includes provisions for prison sentences of up to three years and fines of up to 40,000 Brunei dollars (approximately 20,000 euros) for the publication of "false news". Media will also have to register and obtain a license provided by the Home Affairs Minister, and deposit 100,000 Brunei dollars (50,000 euros) in a government account. The Home Affairs Minister will have the right to refuse to grant a newspaper a licence without justification, to ban the sale of a foreign publication, and to suspend a media. Publications will not have any right to appeal. In addition, heads of all press groups will have to be subjects of the Brunei Sultanate. This law, which is already in force, also prohibits media from obtaining foreign financing without government approval. The Sultanate has only two daily newspapers: the Borneo Bulletin, close to the authorities, and News Express, a more independent newspaper. An existing law on internal security allows the police to hold anyone suspected of anti-governmental activity for a renewable two-year period without obtaining a conviction.

The apparently unblocked expansion of the Internet makes it impossible to censor articles "contrary to Islam or the honour of the royal family", as specified in orders from the Sultan who, since 1962, holds the posts of Prime Minister, Defence Minister, Finance Minister, Dean of the University, police chief and "Leader of the faithful". The Sultan's subjects also have access to a cable television network, where they can see programmes from the BBC, which are quite different than the stilted broadcasts of Brunei's only television channel, which is naturally a public channel.

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