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Mongolia

Create favourable environment for media and journalism (MN0026)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: NR

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Central Government Authority

Support Institution(s): Cabinet Secretariat of Government of Mongolia, Secretariat of Parliament and other relevant organisations; Civil society organisations who actively engage and conduct research on government transparency, corruption and governance issues.

Policy Areas

Defending Journalists and Activists, Legislation & Regulation, Media & Telecommunications, Private Sector, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Mongolia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: NR

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: NR

Description

Status quo or problem addressed by the commitment: Recommendation four of the special recommendations provided by the Independent Consultant Report on the implementation of the NAP for OPG of Mongolia for 2014- 16 stated that Mongolia should have a special commitment to freedom of media in cooperation with the media and journalism sector in the NAP for 2016-18. Journalists are worried about government actions to directly control the media. Currently, media outlets can are meeting the domestic demand for its 3 million people. Many large companies and politicians now own the media or have a “cooperation agreement” with the media that restricts the media from publicly releasing any negative information about that person or company. Main Objective: Adopt new Law on Freedom of Media, which meet international standards. To promote fair competition in media and to promote sector development, it is necessary to develop a transparent mechanism in media. To ensure and protect the rights of the journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their informants. Make amendment into the Law on National Broadcasting to ensure media is free from any political influence and has independent finances from the government. Brief Description of commitment (140 character limit): Facilitate consultation with the wide participation of media, civil society organisations and review the limitations for media contents and establish a legal environment that ensures the financial and political independence of MNB by amending the Law on Mongolian National Broadcasting.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

5. Create a favorable environment for media outlets and journalists

Commitment Text:

Facilitate consultation with a wide range of participants from the media to civil society organizations with the purpose of reviewing the limitations for media content and establishing a legal environment that ensures the financial and political independence of MNB by amending the Law on Mongolian National Broadcasting.

Status quo or problem addressed:

Recommendation four of the special recommendations provided by the Independent Consultant Report on the implementation of the NAP for the OPG of Mongolia for 2014-16 stated that Mongolia should have a special commitment to freedom of media in cooperation with the media and journalism sector in the NAP for 2016-18. Journalists are worried about government actions to directly control the media. Currently, media outlets are meeting the domestic demand for Mongolia's 3 million people. Many large companies and politicians now own a media outlet or have a 'cooperation agreement' with the media that restricts the media from publicly releasing any negative information about that person or company.

Main Objective:

Adopt a new Law on Freedom of Media, which is in line with international standards.

To promote fair competition in the media industry and to promote the sectors development. It is necessary to develop a mechanism for transparency in media.

To ensure and protect the rights of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their informants.

Make amendment into the Law on National Broadcasting to ensure media is free from political influence and has independent finances from the government.

Milestones:

5.1. Run a consultation session for the draft amendment of the Freedom of Media and present it to the Parliament upon assessing whether the legislation meets international standards.

5.2. After consulting with the public and ensuring that the Draft legislation meets international standards, the Draft legislation should be submitted. The draft should recognize the rights of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their informants, and that media outlet owners must be transparent.

5.3. Plan and organize advocacy actions until the adoption of the law in cooperation with OGP engagement

5.4. Receive feedback and facilitate consultations with professional associations on what amendments can be made into the Law on Mongolian National Broadcasting to ensure the financial and political independence of broadcasting.

5.5. Submit the draft amendment of the law, which reflects the outcome of the consultation and organize advocacy actions until the Parliament passes the amendment.

5.6. Develop a legal environment to ensure Information transparency of the ownership of media.

Responsible institution: Central Government Authority responsible for Justice

Supporting institutions: Cabinet Secretariat of Government of Mongolia, Secretariat of Parliament and other relevant organizations, civil society organizations who actively engage and conduct research on government transparency, corruption and governance issues

Start date: 30 June 2016

End date: 30 June 2018

Context and Objectives

Mongolia has taken several steps towards protecting freedom of the press and media since the transition to democracy in the early 1990’s. The 1992 Constitution of Mongolia guarantees freedom of the press through Article 16.16,[Note65: Globe International Center, Media Freedom Report, 2012-2014, http://www.globeinter.org.mn/images/upld/Hevleliinerhcholoo2015english.pdf.] and the 1998 Law on Freedom of the Media prohibits state censorship of the media.[Note66: Law of Mongolia on Freedom of Media, available at: http://crc.gov.mn/contents//en/raw/12/30/27/10._Mongolian_Law_on_Freedom_of_Media.pdf.] The 2005 Law on Public Radio and Television established the Mongolia National Broadcaster (MNB) as a non-profit entity governed by a 15-member National Council that provides nationwide broadcasting services.[Note67: The Law of Mongolia on Public Radio and Television, available at: http://www.crc.gov.mn/en/k/x7/1q.] Additionally, Mongolia passed the Law on Information Transparency and Right to Information in 2011 which regulates transparency of the state and the rights of citizens and legal entities to seek and receive information.[Note68: Law on the Information Transparency and Right to Information, available at: http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un-dpadm/unpan047231.pdf.]

Despites these legislative efforts, observers have noted several persistent issues that hinder Mongolia’s media landscape. One such issue is the use of anti-defamation laws to dissuade criticism from journalists, often through the threat of excessive and disproportionate fines. The Globe International Center’s 2015 Media Freedom Report noted that between 1999 and 2015, 54.3 percent out of total 738 civil and criminal defamation cases were filed against media and journalists.[Note69: Globe International Center, Media Freedom Report, 2015, http://www.globeinter.org.mn/images/upld/Hevleliinerhcholoo2016eng.pdf. pg. 21.] In 2016, Global International Center registered 63 violations affecting the professional work of 61 journalists and media outlets, of which 12 were related to criminal defamation, detention, or arrest.[Note70: Globe International Center, Media Freedom Report 2016, https://www.forum-asia.org/uploads/wp/2017/05/Media_freedom_report_2016eng.pdf, pg. 16.] According to Freedom House’s 2016 Freedom of the Press Report, '(in Mongolia) self-censorship is encouraged by the risk of legal liability, and journalists often retract critical stories before defamation cases go to trial.'[Note71: See: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2016/mongolia.] In July 2015, one journalist was fined 19.2 million MNT (USD $10,000) following a defamation conviction, a sum of over 100 times the minimum monthly wage.[Note72: Zoljargal, M, 'Court releases jailed journalist after imposing fine,' The UB Post, 28 July 2015, http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=15526.]

Another issue is the lack of transparency regarding media ownership in Mongolia. Reporters Without Borders and the Press Institute of Mongolia reported in the 2016 Media Ownership Monitor that 29 out of a total of 39 investigated media outlets in Mongolia have political affiliations through their founders and/or owners.[Note73: Media Ownership Monitor Mongolia, available here: http://mongolia.mom-rsf.org/en/owner/.] The MNB has been criticized for its perceived lack of independence. According to the Centre on Law and Democracy, the MNB depends heavily on a direct government subsidies, which negatively impacts its independence and stability, and that the Law on Public Radio and Television does not clearly delineate the process of appointing the National Council, leading to political interference in the appointment process.[Note74: Centre for Law and Democracy, Report on Current Regulatory Issues and Needs in Mongolia, January 2010, http://www.law-democracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/10.01.Mongolia.Media-Situation.pdf.] In its Needs Assessment Report for Mongolia’s June 2016 parliamentary elections, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights noted concern with the financial and editorial independence of the MNB, 'whereby a limited advertising market leads to a dependency on advertisement purchased by central and local government, especially outside of the capital.'[Note75: Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Mongolia Parliamentary Elections, 29 June 2016: OSCE/ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Report 5-8 April 2016. https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/mongolia/237621?download=true, pg. 9.]

This commitment aims to improve the legal environment for journalists in Mongolia as well as transparency in media ownership by amending the Law on Media Freedom and the Law on Broadcasting. Specifically, the commitment calls for holding consultations with the public and media stakeholders before submitting the draft laws to parliament, assessing if the draft legislation meets international standards, and developing a legal framework to ensure information transparency of media ownership.

The considerable emphasis placed on public and stakeholder consultations to develop the amended media laws makes the commitment relevant to the OGP value of civic participation. The commitment also stipulates that the draft laws should develop a legal environment to ensure transparency of media ownership, making it relevant to the OGP value of access to information. Overall, the milestones clearly state that consultations will take place throughout the development of the draft amendments. However, the milestones do not explain how the draft amendments will reflect the outcomes of the public consultations. Therefore, the specificity is marked as medium. It should be noted that the development of the legal environment to ensure transparency of media ownership (Milestone 5.6), an important component of the commitment, is vague. Press and media freedom is an important issue in Mongolia and a major stakeholder priority that the previous action plan failed to address.

If fully implemented, this commitment could have a potentially transformative impact on the freedom of the press and journalism in Mongolia because the public and media stakeholders have an opportunity to directly influence the amendments to the country’s laws governing the media. Additionally, journalists and the public will have increased access to information regarding the ownership of media outlets, thus significantly improving both media and political transparency in the country. It is also positive that the government expects to draft the amendment through consultations with citizens. The previous IRM report highlighted the importance of this issue in its key recommendations, one of which called for the inclusion of a commitment on media freedom in collaboration with media civil society groups, journalists, and the press protection sector.[Note76: Independent Reporting Mechanism, Mongolia Progress Report 2014-2015, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Mongolia_14-15_Final_ENGLISH_0.pdf, pg. 61.]

Completion

In December 2016, the government submitted a draft Law on Broadcasting before Parliament.[Note77: Law of Mongolia on Broadcasting, available at: https://www.law-democracy.org/live/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Mongolia.Bro_.Dec16.pdf.] Article 19[Note78: Available at: http://forum.parliament.mn/projects/356] of the draft law addresses the issue of media ownership transparency, and includes the disclosure of license-holder information. Article 19.3 stipulates that the Regulatory Commission (the government agency that issues media licenses) shall undertake 'necessary measures to create conditions for fair competition in the broadcasting sector and to prevent... over concentration in accordance with relevant regulation', and Article 19.4 states that the Regulatory Commission shall 'disseminate information on license ownership to the public.' These articles fulfill the overall objective of the commitment to release media ownership information.

In an analysis of the draft Law on Broadcasting, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) found several elements that run contrary to international standards, such as failing to transform the Communications Regulatory Commission into an independent body, failing to provide for community broadcasters, and imposing an unduly harsh regime for regulating content.[Note79: Centre for Law and Democracy, Mongolia: Analysis of the Draft Broadcasting Law, March 2017, https://www.law-democracy.org/live/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Mongolia.Broadcasting.Mar17analysis.pdf, pg. 1.] CLD’s analysis also found that the draft law fails to clarify the criteria against which license applications shall be assessed, and does not require the licensing process to be transparent or to allow for public participation.[Note80: Ibid. pg. 6.]

The IRM inquired with the government regarding the public consultations carried out when drafting the amendment to the Law on Broadcasting and the Law on Media Freedom, as stipulated in the commitment milestones, as well as the steps taken to ensure these draft amendments meet international standards. However, there is no evidence that the government organized public consultations on these two draft laws during the reporting period. In March 2017, TV representatives discussed the draft Law on Broadcasting during the national TV forum, but this forum was not organized by the government. Given the lack of information on whether these consultations occurred, the overall implementation commitment is considered limited at the end of the first year of the action plan cycle.

Next Steps

Improving the operating environment for media outlets in Mongolia is a laudable goal, as it addresses a major stakeholder priority from the previous action plan. If this commitment is carried forward, the IRM recommends specifying what is meant by transparency of media ownership and financial and political independence of public broadcasting.


Mongolia's Commitments

  1. Mobile application for citizens feedback and requests

    MN0022, 2016, E-Government

  2. Starred commitment Improve provision and quality of education and health services

    MN0023, 2016, E-Government

  3. Civic engagement in decision making

    MN0024, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  4. Transparent funding of political parties

    MN0025, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  5. Create favourable environment for media and journalism

    MN0026, 2016, Defending Journalists and Activists

  6. National Action Plan for Combating Corruption

    MN0027, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  7. Transparency of loans and aid from foreign countries

    MN0028, 2016, Aid

  8. Online registration of VAT

    MN0029, 2016, Capacity Building

  9. Improve glass account system

    MN0030, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  10. Make government procurement process transparent

    MN0031, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  11. Transparency of contracts of public resource exploiting

    MN0032, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  12. Information transparency of the owners of the entities with rights to use mineral resources

    MN0033, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  13. Make licenses, information and activities of the companies transparent and effective by government

    MN0034, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  14. Monitor and ensure implementation of Information Transparency and Information Access Right Act by establishing National Information Transparency Committee and creating structure of Information commissary.

    MN0001, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  15. Modernize performance indicators of information transparency of public organizations into ―”citizen targeted” ones.

    MN0002, 2014, Capacity Building

  16. Starred commitment Launch ―Transparent account systemǁ in order to enable consistent, transparent reporting to the public and to provide comprehensive information on budget revenue collection, income and expenditure details, as well as public procurement and investments.

    MN0003, 2014, Fiscal Transparency

  17. Develop central information database of minerals, oil, and land tenure license owners, open to the public.

    MN0004, 2014, E-Government

  18. Ensure transparency all agreements on investment, stability and production- sharing of public-owned resources such as water, minerals, oil and land.

    MN0005, 2014, Extractive Industries

  19. Starred commitment Publish list of mandatory public information on environment such as information regarding any action harmful to natural environment and people’s health.

    MN0006, 2014, Environment and Climate

  20. Starred commitment Disclose information to the public relating to foreign loan assistance projects and programs, including the total amounts, terms, payback duration and general provisions related to the loan rate, board members, and implementation bodies. Information about the terms of implementation of the projects as well as general conditions of contracts between suppliers and buyers shall be disclosed as well.

    MN0007, 2014, Aid

  21. Disclose budget funded procurement contracts above 80.0 million MNT.

    MN0008, 2014, Open Contracting and Procurement

  22. Ensure civic engagement in planning and developing public services at central and local levels by introducing communication channels such as organizing e-conferences, public hearings, and open meetings.

    MN0009, 2014, Public Participation

  23. Launch “Smart Government” program, for delivering e-public services to the people regardless of distance and location through the public service portal.

    MN0010, 2014, E-Government

  24. Create a single access public service for citizens without requiring supplementary state registered data, based on principles of “One citizen-One public servant”.

    MN0011, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  25. Improve and develop smart e-service capability for “One window-public service” and introduce it as a standard unit of public service.

    MN0012, 2014, E-Government

  26. Increase number of “Public service online machines” at local levels for delivering public services to individuals in remote areas, as well as increase the content of its data.

    MN0013, 2014, E-Government

  27. Report public feedback on government performance received from the Government’s “11-11” center. Government shall also establish a data system that responds to and tracks petitions and enquiries.

    MN0014, 2014, Public Participation

  28. Develop and publish E-mapping of crime occurrence.

    MN0015, 2014, E-Government

  29. Create a united information database on law enforcement activities, crimes and violation records, and ensure that the database is accessible to relevant bodies.

    MN0016, 2014, E-Government

  30. Introduce a system of random disclosure to the public of asset and financial statements of any public servants.

    MN0017, 2014, Asset Disclosure

  31. Publish the asset and financial statements of officials who work in organizations with a high likelihood of corruption index on websites and ensure citizen monitoring.

    MN0018, 2014, Asset Disclosure

  32. Create regulation that repeals decisions made without due participation of citizens and contradict public interests, as well as hold the officials at fault accountable.

    MN0019, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  33. Deliver the draft laws, acts, amendments and administrative rules to public attention in due time. In particular, create an opportunity for people to access such information from “Public Service Online Machines”, Citizens Chambers, and the public libraries at each provincial level.

    MN0020, 2014, Capacity Building

  34. Strengthen the capacity of citizens by implementing certain projects to enhance legal knowledge of target groups using simple language.

    MN0021, 2014, Capacity Building