Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 12 (of 30)
Political Environment: 13 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 11 (of 30)
Total Score: 36 (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 deteriorated somewhat in 2006 owing to an increase in attacks and harassment of journalists. Censorship of public information is banned under the 1998 Media Freedom Law, which also prohibits the government from owning media outlets. 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 use of criminal and civil defamation suits also remains problematic. Officials have at times filed libel suits against media practitioners and publications in the wake of critical articles. In June, two journalists lost court cases brought by a plaintiff named in their articles, but were spared fines owing to an amnesty. Another journalist, Uyanga Gantumur, lost a suit brought by a bank after she wrote that the president might own shares in the bank. Libel charges are hard to defend against because Mongolian civil law places the burden on the defendant to prove the truth of the statement at issue. 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 to reveal confidential sources. In early 2006, reporter Sh. Otgonjargal of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party daily Unen was harassed and threatened with arrest by a security official demanding to know the sources behind an article concerning official corruption. In July, B. Tsevegmid, editor in chief of the Nomin television station, was assaulted outside the station. She was hospitalized for treatment. The beating followed the airing of a controversial investigative program on the mining industry. In October, two journalists and two photographers from newspapers were beaten and detained while covering a protest demonstration in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.
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 currently transitioning into public service broadcasting operations. Nonetheless, 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. In this country of 2.5 million, only 220,000 people are internet users, or slightly more than 10 percent of the population. Owing to widespread poverty in Mongolia, the internet has yet to serve as a significant source of information.
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