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State investigator files criminal lawsuit against TV9 channel

(Globe International/IFEX) - 14 February 2012 - A criminal defamation case has been launched against TV9 channel and a crew that was involved in the making of a documentary that disclosed allegations of corruption.

On 17 December 2011, TV9 channel aired a documentary about the illegal privatization of a building located in the center of Ulaan Bataar. The documentary, titled "Detective-2", was based on gathered evidence and suggested that senior officials were implicated in corruption. According to the television crew, the main purpose of the documentary was to call on the police to investigate the alleged corruption.

On 22 December, P. Otgonjargal, a police major at the State Investigation Authority who is currently in charge of investigating the privatization, filed a criminal defamation claim at the Sukhbaatar District Police Department.

The TV9 documentary team, including senior producer D. Turmunkh, reporter N. Binderya, director N. Bayarsaikhan and presenter L. Erdenebaatar, as well as TV director Ts. Enkbat, were questioned by police as witnesses. The police's main questions were "What is the purpose of the documentary? Who is behind you?" The police officers made vague statements, threatening the team members with detention.

O. Baasankhuu, an attorney, protested the police action and stressed that the police's demands that the documentary team reveal their information sources is a violation of the main principles of press freedom. "Currently, the journalists who were questioned by police are under threat of becoming criminal suspects based on their testimony. This is a serious violation of the Constitutional guarantee of human rights, and also breaches the Law on Criminal Procedure of Mongolia." The attorney added: "The current case is a perfect example of the lack of protection for journalists, and of how they can become victims of harassment. The police's action shows how the role of the press and its importance for the public interest is undermined, and how the ability of the press to provide accurate and reliable information may be adversely affected."

Globe International urges the police to stop these arbitrary measures and respect the rights of independent media and the law on Media Freedom, which bans any type of censorship.

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