No light at the end of the tunnel
The ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) exercises absolute control over the media. Increasingly aware of the restrictions imposed on the official media, Laotians are turning to the Internet and social media. But use of online news and information platforms is held back by a 2014 decree under which Internet users who criticize the government and the Marxist-Leninist LPRP can be jailed. The same decree also forces Internet users to systematically identify themselves by the name they have registered with the authorities. As a result, Laos has only half a million Internet users, barely 10% of the population. A decree by the prime minister that took effect in January 2016 allows foreign media to set up office in Laos on the condition that they submit their content to LPRP censorship. So, only the Chinese news agency Xinhua and the Vietnamese news agency Nhan Dan have opened bureaux in Vientiane. In a dramatic illustration of the degree to which Laos curtails the freedom to inform and is a “black hole” from which little news emerges, both local and foreign reporters were forbidden to cover the collapse of a dam on the Mekong river in July 2018. Although the toll of dead and missing ran into the hundreds, an exact figure was never established.
170 in 2018
66.41 in 2018