Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Emergency laws-in effect for nearly half a century-and the absolute monarchy of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah continue to ensure that media in Brunei are unable to be either free or diverse. Since 2001, harsh press legislation has required that newspapers apply for annual publishing permits and that noncitizens obtain government approval to work as journalists. The government has the authority to arbitrarily shut down media outlets and to bar distribution of foreign publications. Journalists can be jailed for up to three years for reporting "false and malicious" news. The May 2005 Sedition Act further restricted press freedom this year by expanding the list of punishable offenses to include criticisms of the sultan, the royal family, or the prominence of the national philosophy, the Malay Islamic monarchy concept. Under the amended act, persons convicted of such crimes, or any publishers, editors, or proprietors of a newspaper publishing matters with seditious intention, face fines of up to B$5,000 (US$2,965).
Media are not able to convey a diversity of viewpoints and opinions, and criticism of the government is rare. The private press is either owned or controlled by the sultan's family or practices self-censorship on political and religious matters. The country has only one main daily newspaper, the Borneo Bulletin; although letters to the editor at times criticize government policies, the newspaper more generally self-censors to avoid angering the government. A second but smaller Malay newspaper and several Chinese newspapers are also published within Brunei. The only local broadcast outlets are operated by the government-controlled Radio Television Brunei, but foreign channels are available via a cable network. Internet access is reportedly unrestricted and growing, although the primary internet service provider is state owned and several Bruneians were detained in 2005 for publishing or distributing antigovernment materials online.