Expression

All traditional media are owned by companies linked to government, and are seen as biased towards the ruling party, particularly around elections. The statutory Media Development Authority (MDA) has wide power and discretion over media. Vague terminology in laws give the state broad powers to penalise media content that is deemed critical of the government, offensive to the public, or against such contested notions as decency, good taste and national harmony. Surveillance is widespread, including through CCTV, internet monitoring and monitoring of communications data, and no judicial authorisation is required for the state to intercept and read communications. The use of online space to express dissent has brought new restriction: all online news sites must now be licensed and pay a bond and annual fees if they receive more than 50,000 unique views a month, and commit to removing immediately any content the MDA tells them to take down. They are also not allowed to receive international funding. Some sites have closed down in response. The MDA’s Internet Code of Conduct is binding on all content providers and prohibits what may be shared. Content that is seen as pro-LGBTI is routinely taken down. Defamation is a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in prison. Political figures, including the prime minister, bring or threaten defamation suits against people who criticise them, with bloggers and cartoonists often receiving defamation suits. The government has never lost a defamation case, calling judicial independence into question. People who criticise the judiciary are regularly threatened charged with contempt of court, an offence freshly codified under a new law in 2016, with punishments of up to three years in jail and heavy costs. Artistic freedom is also heavily constrained; the MDA must approve all theatre scripts, and all films and videos must be pass by censors. The consequence of this restriction is a climate of self-censorship.