Brunei | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Media in Brunei remain under the control of an absolute monarchy whose leader, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, rules by decree. Freedoms of speech and of the press are restricted under emergency laws that have been in effect since 1962. In addition, under legislation passed in 2001, newspapers must apply for annual publishing permits, noncitizens are required to obtain government approval before working for media outlets, and the government is empowered to shut down media outlets without showing cause. The press law also stipulates that journalists who report "false news" can be sentenced to prison terms of up to three years, although authorities have not had occasion to use this provision, according to Reporters sans frontieres.

Brunei's media do not provide diverse viewpoints or critical scrutiny of the government. According to the BBC, the privately owned press is either owned or controlled by the sultan's family or exercises self-censorship on political and religious matters. Brunei's only daily paper is the Borneo Bulletin, which has an online version. The only local broadcast media are operated by the government-controlled Radio Television Brunei, while foreign TV stations are available via cable network. Fortunately, Internet use is growing and provides an avenue for citizens to express critical opinions. However, the Internet forum BruneiTalk was blocked temporarily in 2003 after contributors discussed the business dealings of senior officials.