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)
Freedoms of speech and of the press are protected by law, and the government generally respects these rights in practice. However, media freedom was compromised somewhat in 2007 owing to ongoing legal harassment and financial difficulties faced by journalists. Censorship of public information is banned under the 1998 Media Freedom Law, but 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 for compliance with antiviolence, antipornography, and antialcohol content restrictions. There is no freedom of information legislation; a draft law was submitted to parliament in May 2007 but had not been passed at year’s end. Officials frequently file criminal and civil defamation suits in the wake of critical articles, with a quarter of journalists reportedly affected. In April and May, criminal charges were filed against a reporter and an editor of Zuuny Medee newspaper over articles accusing a member of parliament of corruption. The case was pending at year’s end. In August, former government spokesperson Ninjiin Demberel was sentenced to four months in prison for criminal defamation linked to an article and television program on political corruption, though the sentence was later reduced to a fine. The courts have failed to thwart such harassment, particularly because the law places the burden on the defendant to prove the truth of the statement at issue. In a recent study of the 151 defamation cases brought against the media between 2001 and 2005, the local press freedom watchdog Globe International found that the media had lost in almost 60 percent of cases, won in only 10 percent, and settled 32 percent. To avoid being sued for libel, many independent publications practice a degree of self-censorship.
Although no direct government censorship exists, journalists complain of harassment and intimidation as well as pressure from the authorities to reveal confidential sources. In February 2007, police prevented journalist G. Erdenetuya from photographing the site of a helicopter crash that killed over a dozen people. In June 2007, the manager of a restaurant in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, beat and kicked a reporter trying to photograph his business. The journalist was turned away when attempting to report the attack at the local police station.
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 Law on the Public Radio and Television passed in 2005, state-owned radio and television broadcasting outlets, like Radio Mongolia, are transforming into public service broadcasters, but progress has been slow. Both the state-owned and public media still frequently experience political pressure, and most provincial media outlets continue to be controlled by local authorities. According to media watchdogs, journalists frequently seek payments to cover or fabricate stories. Mongolians have access to local, privately owned television stations, to English-language broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Voice of America on private FM stations, and, in Ulaanbaatar, to foreign television programming via cable and commercial satellite systems. Owing to widespread poverty in Mongolia, the internet has yet to serve as a significant source of information; only a little over 10 percent of the population uses the internet.