Mongolia: RSF commends presidential veto of a dangerous social media bill
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) commends the Mongolian President’s veto of a social media bill that poses a potential threat to journalism and the public’s right to information, and urges the parliament not to override this veto.
“We commend the Mongolian president’s decision to veto a social media bill that would allow the government to arbitrarily have social media contents removed, including factual information posted by reporters, under the vague pretexts of protecting “national unity” and “state secrets". The legislators should refrain from overriding the veto, but instead take the time to rewrite the bill so that it better respects journalism and the public’s right to information.
On 27 January 2023, Mongolian President Khurelsukh Ukhnaa vetoed a social media bill that legislators adopted earlier in the month, only 48 hours after it was disclosed to the public, which made it the fastest decision ever taken by Mongolia’s parliament and did not allow any public debate on the matter. The Parliament can still override the veto providing it collects the two-thirds of the votes in a coming extraordinary session planned for this month.
The social media bill, that notably includes dispositions against hate speech, children abuse, drug trafficking and online fraud, also allows the government to request Internet Service Providers to “suspend or delete accounts” and “reduce the distribution of information” of contents deemed harmful to “national unity" and disclosing “state and official secrets”. This Bill, by giving the government body - and not a judicial or independent authority - such a power, would give political authorities the ability to make arbitrary and politically motivated decisions, giving the authorities to censor any online content they dislike.
Although Mongolia broadly respects the principles of press freedom and media pluralism, its media environment is plagued by conflicts of interest that hinder editorial independence. In 2017, a few weeks before the presidential election, Mongolian television stations replaced their normal programming with blank screens in protest against plans to increase the penalties for defamation, which they feared would force journalists into self-censorship.
Mongolia ranked 90th out of 180 in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index.