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General prosecutor files criminal defamation case against journalist

(Globe International/IFEX) - A defamation case has been brought against B. Tsoojchuluuntsetseg, a female journalist and Investigative Department editor of the "Ogloonii Shuudan" (Morning Post) daily newspaper.

Since December 2010, Tsoojchuluuntsetseg has been publishing a series of articles entitled "Billionaires Who Swindle Banks". The stories focus on individuals who have taken out large bank loans and are not making repayments. In her third article in the series, dated 9 December 2010, the journalist wrote about debtors of the Khadgalamj Bank. The article was subheaded, "Does General Prosecutor D. Dorligjav owe US$827,000?"

On 10 December, the General Prosecutor's assistant, Enkhtur, called the newspaper's Responsible Secretary and threatened him with prosecution. On 17 December, another assistant to the General Prosecutor and the head of the Supervision Department of the State General Prosecutor's Office, Mr. B. Bold, filed a criminal complaint at the Criminal Police Department on behalf of Dorligjav.

The Sukhbaatar district Police Department decided that there was insufficient evidence to justify prosecution of Tsoojchuluuntsetseg on criminal defamation charges. However, on 23 December the Sukhbaatar District Prosecutor opened a criminal defamation case against the journalist.

Globe International (GI) believes that the action of the General Prosecutor has breached the Media Freedom Law, which bans any kind of censorship or disturbance of journalism that complies with the law. A breach of the Media Freedom Law is a crime under Article 139 of the Mongolian Criminal Law.

On 13 January 2011, GI sent an official letter to State General Prosecutor Dorligjav about the criminal prosecution of the journalist. In the letter, GI expressed concern that while Dorligjav may have been able to file a civil defamation lawsuit, he chose to file a criminal defamation case against Tsoojchuluuntsetseg. In addition, the head of the Supervision Department filed a complaint on behalf of the General Prosecutor relating to his personal reputation. GI is not confident that the investigator will follow due process and is concerned that the journalist may be pressured to reveal the identity of her confidential source.

GI is concerned about the increase in the number of such actions by public servants and wealthy people who use criminal defamation provisions to censor the work of journalists and the media that expose wrongdoing.

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