Laos | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Laotian media remain tightly controlled by the authoritarian, one-party state. Although the constitution provides for press freedom, that freedom is severely restricted in practice. Sections of the penal code broadly forbid inciting disorder, slandering the state, distorting state policies, or disseminating information or opinions that weaken the state. Foreign journalists must apply for special visas and are restricted in their activities; foreign news reports appearing in Lao publications are subject to censorship. Two European journalists covering the Hmong insurgency and their American interpreter, arrested in June and sentenced to 15-year prison terms, were released in July following considerable international pressure. However, two Hmong assistants arrested with them remain imprisoned under long sentences. The government owns all newspapers and broadcast media, tightly controlling their content. According to Reporters Sans Frontieres, all journalists are employees of the ministry of information and culture and are trained to report information in a way that is "favorable to the government." Authorities also control all domestic Internet servers, sporadically monitoring e-mail and blocking access to some political Web sites.