Mongolia: Upcoming election raises concerns for press freedom

Mongolia’s upcoming legislative council election on June 24 will test the country’s new misinformation laws passed earlier this year limiting freedom of expression. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the government to prioritise the free flow of information during the election and enact reforms to protect media institutions.

A woman holds the flag of the Mongolian People's Party at a campaign event in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia on June 5, 2020. Credit: BYAMBASUREN BYAMBA-OCHIR / AFP

The legislative council election in Mongolia will feature 670 candidates, including 208 independents under the country’s new electoral laws passed in December 2019. In response to Covid-19 on April 29, the Mongolian government legislated new restrictions on speech targeting misinformation. Under the new law, a person or legal entity may be fined MNT 500,000 (USD 185) or MNT 5,000,000 (USD 1850) respectively for misleading others or spreading disinformation. 

Earlier in January, the government introduced another law criminalising the publishing of ‘false information’, a term left undefined by the Mongolian Criminal Code resulting in fines and restrictions on travel for offenders. According to Transparency International, a similar law was in effect in late 2017, resulting in more than 100 journalists charged, mostly by politicians. 

Mongolia’s anticipated Media Freedom Law that began a drafting process in December 2018 may amend these restrictions. However, it is unclear when the government will finalise the draft despite calls from the Globe International Centre in Mongolia for the law to be reviewed at the United Nations Human Rights Council in November 2020.

The IFJ said: “The unfortunate circumstances of Covid-19 and new misinformation laws in Mongolia have created a terrifying storm targeting freedom of expression in Mongolia. The IFJ calls on authorities to tread with caution and allow journalists’ to report uninterrupted.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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