MONGOLIAN LAWMAKERS VOTE AGAINST FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
My name is Duuya Baatar and I am spamming your inbox today to ask for your help in a desperate time for Mongolia. Read on...
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My name is Duuya Baatar and I run the Nest Center for Journalism Innovation and Development NGO and Mongolian Fact-checking center. We aim to help media entrepreneurs create a sustainable and viable media business while helping journalists create better quality journalism.
I am developing this newsletter as my project for the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Project at CUNY with an aim to help our partners and supporters around the world understand Mongolia’s media environment better. I was initially planning the launch in February, but decided to push it forward due to a new law Mongolia’s Parliament just passed.
So here’s my emergency launch newsletter. And I hope you will forgive my sending you the newsletter without your permission.
For the first few weeks (or days, hopefully), you will mostly read about the impacts of the new “Law to protect human rights on social media” on free speech, but following the period, I will mostly tell the stories of Mongolia’s and Central Asian media entrepreneurs who are building sustainable and viable newsrooms. You’ll receive a letter from me once every two weeks.
MONGOLIAN LAWMAKERS VOTE AGAINST FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
The “Law to protect human rights on social media” threatens free speech on social media, giving State the ultimate power to regulate social media
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, January 22nd, 2023 | Mongolian Parliament hits the hammer on a “Law to protect human rights on social media”, an effort seen by many, including the Nest Center NGO, to limit freedom of expression.
Photo: Uchral Nyam-Osor, Minister of Digital Development and Communication of Mongolia submits the draft to Parliament Speaker
The draft of the law was first seen by the public a little over 48 hours before it was passed, the fastest Mongolia’s lawmakers ever decided on a legislation.
Under the guise of protecting human rights, especially protecting children from cyber crimes, the 6-page law comprises a number of clauses that aim to give the State the ultimate power to decide what social media users see.
Another threat, according to some lawyers who have been helping the Nest Center NGO understand the bill, say that this creates a precedent for Mongolia’s Parliament to pass any legislation without public discussion.
“The process over the past 48 hours violates numerous existing laws that regulate how new legislation is made in Mongolia”, says Narantsetseg Batsaikhan, CEO of Fidelitas Partners LLP.
Photo: The law is passed with 76.9 percent of MPs, present at the session voting in favor
The law was passed on a Friday afternoon, during the Parliament’s closing session, ahead of this winter’s coldest days with temperature falling as low as 37 degrees celsius. Out of 52 MPs who were present at the closing session, 40 voted in favor of the proposed legislation, whereas members of the opposition Democratic Party, the only member from the youngest Labour Party and one member from the leading Mongolian People’s party voted against it, losing with a 23.1 percent.
Photo: Parliamentary session closes for the autumn
It’s fair to say that this is just one move in a series of actions the current government has been taking to keep the media and public’s opinion under control.
The country’s Minister of “Law and Internal Affairs”, Nyambaatar Khishgee has been pushing forward a proposal to add a clause criminalizing defamation and libel into the current Criminal Code. But as the effort faded, after facing opposition from media, a different member of Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai’s cabinet, Uchral Nyam-Osor proposes another legislation which would give State the power to regulate social media and force fact-checking centers like the Mongolian Fact-checking Center to serve the state without choice. It is worth mentioning the Prime minister of Mongolia is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School, praised in Mongolia for being an advocate for human rights.
Nest Center for Journalism Innovation and Development NGO and its Mongolian Fact-checking Center have always been vocal about the dangers of legalizing social media in Mongolia. Despite our efforts to combat online misinformation, we feel Mongolia’s democracy is too weak and young to introduce such a regulation.
Since the Mongolian Fact-checking became an IFCN signatory and started working as Meta’s third party fact-checking partner, various government organizations and agencies approached the center to understand how fact-checking works and to get basic fact-checking and verification training from us, which never went past the meeting rooms.
I want to take this opportunity to say that the center has never taken part in any discussion about such new law or commented on such regulation. We have met a number of state organizations and agencies at their request, each meeting not continuing for over 90 minutes and mostly advocating for organizing a social media campaign aimed on media literacy.
The newly approved law bans users from posting information related to state officials without permission and allows the state to form a unit under its Ministry of Digital Development and Communication to monitor such “problematic” contents and delete them from social media within 72 hours. All information shared among a circle of more than 3 people is subject to the scope of this bill. Four existing laws were amended following the new legislation, and according to one, the state will now be able to shut down social media under certain circumstances.
Some of these clauses may have changed during discussions at Parliament as the only available file that is accessible to CSOs like the Nest Center NGO is from the 18th of January, which apparently by the standard of our current legislators may be too old.
The law will go into effect on February 1st.
Media, CSOs and lawyers have formed a coalition and are now advocating for either of two possible legal solutions to reversing the situation. The President of Mongolia, Khurelsukh Ukhnaa holds the power to veto the law within 10 days after passage, which will force the Parliament to look back at the decision.
The other possible solution is to submit an appeal to the Constitutional Court of Mongolia.
Either way, it is important for us to gather as much support as possible from our friends outside of Mongolia condemning Mongolian government’s decision.
Mongolia is praised by many for being a champion of democracy in the region. However young and flawed our democracy may be, we wish to keep it.
Here’s the tentative translation of the law that was translated by our team. And we are now working on a position paper that we hope to get to you by tomorrow.
Duuya Baatar, Chairperson, co-founder of Nest Center for Journalism Innovation and Development NGO and co-founder of Mongolian Fact-checking Center .
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