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The challenges facing Mongolian media today amid the pandemic and upcoming elections (Demo)

This statement was originally published on on 11 June 2020.

We are pleased to present to you our recurrent report on the state of media freedom in Mongolia, prepared on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), which is celebrated annually on May 3. UNESCO is launching a global campaign for the 27th annual WPFD under the theme “Journalism without Fear or Favour.” This year’s WPFD coincides with the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

Within the framework of the UNESCO Concept, the following three sub-themes will be discussed at global and national levels: a) Safety of Women and Men Journalists and Media Workers, b) Independent and Professional Journalism Free from Political and Commercial Influence, c) Gender Equality in All Aspect of the Media. Importantly, this year’s focus on taking action to protect independent journalism is hinged upon the 2019 WPFD theme that aimed to reinforce the media’s contribution to elections and the battle against disinformation.

The World Press Freedom Conference dedicated to the WPFD, which plays a key role in promoting free, independent and pluralistic media, had been planned for April 2020 in the Hague of the Netherlands. However, in light of the coronavirus outbreak, the conference has been rescheduled for 18 to 20 October, a few days before the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

The 2020 WPFD has two features. Firstly, the global efforts to fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), a disease that shakes the world, have introduced new conditions, new challenges and new criteria. Mongolia’s rapid response measures to address the COVID-19 set a good example to the world. Secondly, the WPFD theme is timely for Mongolia as the elections for the State Great Hural (the Parliament) are scheduled to be held on 24 June 2020. The United Nations and international organisations have issued a number of policy documents and guidelines concerning the pandemic situation. Our organisation has issued a compilation on COVID-19 and media freedom based on the recommendations and responses of these organisations. You can refer to our site to read the full version in Mongolian. These documents have recommended that during a state of emergency, there should be no unnecessary restrictions on media freedom, and all information related to the crisis should be accessible and available to media and journalists. Moreover, government representatives and health experts should respect the media’s right to criticism.

The State Great Hural enacted the Law to prevent and combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on 29 April 2020, and under section 5.13.1 of the Law on Administrative Offences, in times of crisis, disaster, the outbreak of contagious diseases, catastrophe and other risks posed to society, an individual shall be fined an amount of 500.000 Mongolian tugriks (approx. US$185) and a legal entity – 5 million MNT (approx.US$1850) for misleading others and spreading disinformation. Similar to the provision of defamation (Section 6.21) of the Law on Administrative Offences, the police have been provided with the power to determine whether editorial content is ‘misleading’ or ‘false’, thereby violating freedom of expression and media freedom and posing a risk of creating censorship.

The 1984 Siracusa Principles, adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and the UN Human Rights Committee general comments on derogations during a state of emergency and freedom of movement provide that any measures taken to safeguard the public that restricts human rights and freedoms must be lawful, necessary and proportionate. Legal changes concerning the coronavirus pandemic appear to be inconsistent with these principles. Therefore, concern about possible misuse or excessive use of these measures against the public has been increasing.

Since May 2019, major changes have taken place around the media legal environment. The Law on Broadcasting was introduced by the SGH, and the Law on Telecommunications has been revised. Unfortunately, the independence of the Communication Regulatory Commission (CRC) is not yet guaranteed. The revised Criminal Code came into effect on 10 January 2020, and the defamation provision of the Law on Administrative Offences became ineffective. Nonetheless, there have been no improvements in regulations related to defamation. Defamation is disinformation. Replacing a word with another word did not affect the meaning and nature [of the charge], thus it can be considered a political trick. The Criminal Code still contains a provision about the spread of obviously false information during elections in section 14.8.1 that criminalises the distribution of obviously false information – moreover, causing damage to the honour and reputation of political parties, coalitions and candidates is punishable by a fine equal to 450 to 400 unities (one unity equals MNT1000) or 240 to 720 hours of forced labour or restrictions upon travel for one month to one year. It is possible to use this provision as strong legal censorship.

This report introduces the findings of the online survey on the professional rights of journalists carried out by our organisation involving 86 journalists. According to the questionnaire results, a total of 274 violations of the professional rights of journalists have been registered.

As of the end of 2019, 485 media outlets were registered in Mongolia, and 501 media organisations employ 4749 people, out of which half are journalists and creative staff with 50% professional journalists, according to the Mongolian Press Institute survey.

On 3 November 2020, the UN Human Rights Council during its 36th Session will conduct a review of Mongolia’s human rights situation under the Universal Periodic Review. In October 2019, we sent the NGO submission on freedom of expression developed jointly with journalists, journalism academics and media NGOs as a part of the Mongolian Human Rights Forum’s joint submission to the UN UPR. It is disappointing that eight recommendations on freedom of expression from the previous submission have not been implemented. (The recent submission is attached to this report).

Mongolia presented its voluntary national review report at the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development held in July 2019. SDGs target 16.10 calls to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. The report indicated that this target has not been properly achieved.

A working group to release a draft of the new Media Freedom Law has been established under the Justice and Home Affairs Minister order A/203 of 19 December 2018. The draft has not yet been finalised.

We hope that by November 2020, when the UN Human Rights Council reviews Mongolia’s human rights status at the UPR, the Mongolian Government will achieve remarkable results in implementing the UNHRC’s recommendations.

In recent years, politicians have often stated their views in favour of strict limits on freedom of expression and media freedom, and restriction or blockage of social networking sites.

In 2019, Mongolia was ranked at the 73rd place out of 180 countries in the Reporters without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index and remains a country having notable issues around press freedom.


Read the report

The post The challenges facing Mongolian media today amid the pandemic and upcoming elections appeared first on IFEX.


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