Civil society raises concerns about press freedom and restrictions on peaceful assembly in Mongolia

Civil society raises concerns about press freedom and restrictions on peaceful assembly in Mongolia

The state of civic space remains ‘obstructed’ in Mongolia. In August 2021, a report on press freedom documented violations and concerns around self-censorship. A report by Amnesty International found that the government and law enforcement authorities are severely violating the freedom of peaceful assembly. In October 2021, a protest was held on sexual violence against girls. 

Expression

Reports finds press freedom violations

In August 2021, the NGO Global International Center published a report on the state of media freedom in Mongolia.

While press freedom has been generally respected, according to their monitoring of violations of civil and political rights conducted from 25th November 2020 to 25th February 2021, around 80 cases of violations have been documented. Furthermore, more than half of 300 Mongolian journalists involved in a survey undertaken by the Mongolian Media Council considered that “media freedom has deteriorated.” Respondents also said that “journalists were self-censored.”

The report also found that at least eight freedom of expression-related recommendations to the government received in November 2020 by the UN Human Rights Council had yet to be implemented. They include recommendations to decriminalise defamation, to investigate attacks against journalists and media workers, to ensure the safety of journalists, to adopt an effective data protection legislation to better protect the right to privacy and to lift restrictions imposed on the media and Internet use.

As previously documented, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued their 2021 global press freedom index in April 2021, which ranks Mongolia in 68th place. In their report RSF stated that “more than half of the defamation cases in Mongolia are brought against journalists and media outlets, pushing them to censor themselves”. While the overall environment for the media has improved in recent years, media ownership is very concentrated and most media are affiliated to political parties, which curtails the emergence of independent media. Further, the media’s ability to act as watchdogs is limited by the government’s lack of transparency and sensitivity to criticism, and by still very imperfect media legislation.

Peaceful Assembly

Report highlights concerns around protests

A report by human rights group Amnesty International in July 2021 found that the government and law enforcement authorities are severely violating the freedom of peaceful assembly. The study, titled “Law Enforcement During COVID-19”, is based on real cases that occurred since the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Amnesty International, the government, the State Emergency Commission and the Ulaanbaatar Mayor’s Office passed a number of decisions and resolutions “limiting” the right to protest. Despite this, peaceful demonstrations, marches, online petitions, vigils, spontaneous mass demonstrations, flash mobs and sit-ins were held.

Government authorities blocked the Facebook accounts of some protesters and issued direct and indirect threats to social media groups where people were expressing their opinions. There were instances when government bodies refused to register and/or permit demonstrations. There were also cases where police forcibly stopped demonstrations and investigated and arrested protesters.

Silent protest against sexual violence

On 11th October 2021, a silent protest was organised to demand better protection of girls from sexual violence in conjunction with the International Day of the Girl Child.

Sexual violence against girls has sharply increased in Mongolia in recent years, Batnasan Oyungerel, head of the Mongolian Women's Federation, which organised the protest, told Xinhua. In 2017, about 130 girls were sexually abused in the country, with the number rising to 330 in 2020, Oyungerel said, adding that the number only includes cases recorded by police.

During the silent protest, the women's federation deployed a total of 330 stuffed bunnies at the central square in Ulan Bator, representing the 330 girls who were sexually abused last year, Oyungerel said.