Laos | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Laos

Laos

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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

81

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

31

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

24

There were no major events in 2005 that impacted press freedom in Laos. Article 6 of the 1991 constitution guarantees press freedom and civil liberties, but only in theory. Few citizens actually feel free to exercise these rights because there are no legal safeguards for voicing dissent in public. Article 7 requires the mass media, particularly Lao-language papers such as Vientiane Mai and Pasason and the national news agency, Khaosan Pathet Lao, to "unite and mobilize" the diverse ethnic groups to support the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party. Although central censorship is no longer directly imposed on the press, the Ministry of Information and Culture continues to oversee media coverage and academic publishing. Editors are government appointees assigned to ensure that media function as links between the party and the people.

Military abuses against the Lao-Hmong people, as well as arrests of Christians for practicing their faith, go unreported in the Lao-language papers. To date, there are no international media agencies or journalism schools in Laos, except for UN development organizations. Thus, Lao journalists whose salaries are paid by the government are officiously guided by the editors' promulgation of the media as an instrument of the government. The media's role is to link the people to the party, deliver party policy messages, and disseminate political ideology. All editors are members of the Lao Journalists Association, presided over by Bouabane Vorakhoun, minister of information and culture.

Most print and electronic media are state owned. Two papers that occasionally report on social and economic problems are the French weekly Le Renovateur and the English daily Vientiane Times, which are subsidized by the Ministry of Information and Culture and frame their content primarily to attract tourists, expatriates, and investors to the country. Tourism has led to the proliferation of internet kiosks with unrestricted access to foreign news sites. However, language barriers and high monthly connection fees (approximately $300 to $400 compared with the average monthly salary of $20 to $30) limit regular internet use for all but wealthy individuals, expatriates, and business organizations. Internet service providers must submit quarterly reports to the government to facilitate monitoring.