Globe International Centre, a Mongolian free expression NGO, and the Mongolian Journalists Association with support from Open Society Forum (OSF), Mongolia, marked World Press Freedom Day 2013 on May 1, 2013 at the OSF Conference Hall. More than 75 politicians, officials, international organisations, NGOs, journalists and media practitioners gathered at the event.
G. Jargalsaikhan, Secretary General of the Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO, stressed in his speech that Mongolia is in 98th place in the free press index of Reporters Without Borders. He introduced UNESCO’s 2013 WPFD concept note “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media” which focused on three sub-themes: Ensuring the Safety of Journalists and Media Workers, Combating Impunity of Crimes against Press Freedom, and Online Safety.
Members of Parliament M. Batchimeg, Uyanga, and D. Sarangerel, as well as E. Bat-Uul, Ulaanbaatar City Mayor, who initiated the Media Freedom Law in 1998, attended the event. Ms. M. Batchimeg noted, “Media freedom is the freedom of journalists having responsibility to report truly and to exercise their professional duty” and stressed that Mongolian people’s right to know is in the hands of high officials and owners.
Mrs. Naranjargal Khashkhuu, President of Globe International, made a presentation on the present media freedom situation and she highlighted that, “We are marking this year’s WPFD with a number of threats against media freedom.”
Thirty-seven websites were closed and the licenses of 44 cable television stations terminated after an inspection by the Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC). The government decided to establish a Unified System of Comments on Websites on January 5, 2013 at its Cabinet Meeting. This decision obliges website owners “to introduce software to stop comments containing slander or threats, so the main websites operate under the Unified System of prohibited words introduced by the CRC; the government considers that it will offer to take legal and controlling measures identifying the relevant person by checking the system in the case, if another person affected by the information launches complaints about comments containing information with character of such crimes as libel, insult, obscenity and threats. The State Registration Authority will register the users’ information who posted comments based on the civil data and database of mobile phone users. In doing so, they will follow the related rules and procedures of the state and individual privacy.”
Globe registered in total 45 cases of free expression violations, including assaults, intimidation, threatening, detention and criminal defamation. The most sensational criminal defamation case ended with an 8.5 million MNT (approx. US$6,200) fine imposed against female journalist D. Bolormaa from the daily newspaper Zuunii Medee who wrote an article about human trafficking. The judicial process was carried out very quickly after the plaintiff Mr. B. Narankhuu, a rich businessman who became an MP, made the complaint.
The participants discussed the crucial issues of media freedom, journalism ethics, editorial independence, parajournalism, confidential sources, legal environment, issues of online expression and Internet regulation.
The participants endorsed the Call to the Parliament and Government of Mongolia to dissolve the decision, to ensure the independence of the CRC, enact legislation for the protection of confidential sources and to recognise the community media at policy, legal and regulatory levels.
The Call, signed by major media NGOs, applauds the new version of the Criminal Law, which will be publicly discussed next week; repeals criminal defamation; and expresses hope that Parliament will pass it without any changes.
The Call has been handed over to Mr. Ch.Saikhanbileg, Head of the Government Office, on May 3. To read the call please follow this link.
The 2013 Media Freedom Award “For the Truth!” was handed to cameraman A. Amarsanaa and G. Batkhishig, a reporter at private SBN TV, who were seriously injured and had their camera broken while they were reporting on the illegal operation of night clubs in Ulaanbaatar.