Muted online criticism

The ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) exercises absolute control over the media, and the only time Laotians get to see a semblance of pluralism is when the national TV channels broadcast national assembly sessions in which differences between the various LPRP factions are sometimes expressed. Increasingly aware of the restrictions imposed on the official media, Laotians are turning to the Internet and social media. But the emergence of online news and information platforms is held back by a 2014 decree under which Internet users who criticise the government and the LPRP can be jailed. The same decree also forces Internet users to systematically identify themselves by the name they have registered with the authorities. Nonetheless, Laos now has 3 million Internet users – 40% 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 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 bureaus in Vientiane. A blogosphere is slowly emerging even if comments on social media can lead to prosecution. A blogger was sentenced to five years in prison in December 2019 for trying to inform her fellow citizens about the situation resulting from the flooding in the south of the country. In October 2020, the government announced that all online media would have to register with the authorities in order to keep posting news content. Thanks to the similarity between the Lao and Thai languages, young Laotians closely follow what is happening on Thai social media and, in October 2020, even launched a rare online protest movement with the hashtag #ຖ້າການເມືອງລາວດີ, which is translated as #IfLaotianPoliticansWereGood. It was used more than 400,000 times to denounce – inter alia – the lack of freedom of expression in Laos.

in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index



172 in 2020

Global score


64.28 in 2020

  • 0
    journalists killed in 2022
  • 0
    citizens journalists killed in 2022
  • 0
    media assistants killed in 2022
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