Human rights report shows Brunei’s freedom status as “Not Free”
In its latest report on Brunei, the human rights watchdog Freedom House reported its global freedom status as “Not Free” with a score of 29 out of 100.
It reported that Brunei is an absolute monarchy in which the sultan exercises executive power. Genuine political activity by opposition groups remains extremely limited. There are no national-level elections in which opposition forces could gain power. With the dominance of the sultan and lack of elections, residents have few avenues for genuine and autonomous political participation.
According to Freedom House, officials may close newspapers without cause and fine and imprison journalists for up to three years for reporting deemed “false and malicious.” Brunei’s only television station is state-run. The country’s main English-language daily newspaper, the Borneo Bulletin, is controlled by the sultan’s family and its journalists often practise self-censorship. An online outlet, the Scoop, contains somewhat independent coverage of Brunei society and politics.
Academic freedom is respected to some extent, but scholars reportedly practise self-censorship or release their work under pseudonyms in overseas publications.
The government utilises an informant system to monitor suspected dissidents, and online communications are monitored for subversive content. Nevertheless, Brunei has an active online discussion community, although there are reports of self-censorship online regarding issues related to the monarchy.