Only one out of ten Mongolian media outlets is actively transparent about its ownership. A majority of them have political affiliations through their founders and/or owners. This limits the important role of media to act as an independent watchdog for democracy.
This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 8 December 2016.
Only one out of ten Mongolian media outlets is actively transparent about its ownership. A majority of them have political affiliations through their founders and/or owners. This limits the important role of media to act as an independent watchdog for democracy. These are some of the main findings of the Media Ownership Monitor (MOM), a research and advocacy project carried out in Mongolia by the Press Institute of Mongolia and Reporters Without Borders over the past three months and presented in Ulaanbaatar today.
The results are now available online in Mongolian and English on the MOM Mongolia website and provide transparency about who controls Mongolian news media.
“The MOM project clearly shows that transparency obligations for media owners are deficient in Mongolia”, said Munkhmandakh Myagmar, Executive Director of the Press Institute of Mongolia. “But transparency of ownership structures is the basis for the credibility of the information the public can get. All media outlets should be accountable to their audience, to ensure plurality of content and to serve the interests of Mongolian people.”
President of the Board of Reporters Without Borders Germany, Michael Rediske, adds: “MOM results show, that 89% of the media in Mongolia is not actively transparent about its owners. And for almost half of media companies data on their ownership and finance structure is completely unavailable. This is a worrying sign for the East Asian country.” Consequently, with insufficient laws to prevent political control over media ownership, Mongolia’s media market is penetrated by political affiliations.
The high rate of 74% of media outlets having political affiliations can endanger not only the freedom and plurality of information of citizens, but also opens doors to manipulate information in this important market. Media is different from any other industry. It presents facts and views that are then subjects of public debates, which in turn shape public opinion. So a high influence of the political world on media and journalists can damage democratic processes and the development of a pluralistic society as a whole.
The ownership of a media outlet can be disguised too easily by legal means. Also, in Mongolia there are no regulatory safeguards in place to prevent media concentration and monopolies. Even if media freedom is guaranteed by law, it is not fully implemented. All licensing and registration authorities belong to the government. And the entire State advertisement budget, essential for financing media outlets, is distributed without any rules and regulations.
MOM research and interviews with media outlets, media companies and journalists also reveal that journalists face mounting pressures. “When media are used as political or economic instruments by their owners, it puts them in the position of serving the owner’s interests rather than the public”, Munkhmandakh said. These dependencies can also prevent journalists from being neutral and open doors to self-censorship.
In addition, Mongolian journalists are generally overworked and underpaid. So it is very common that reporters depend on an extra income and put their profession on sale, producing “Paid Content” as outlined in MOM features “Politics & Friends” and “Big Business & Washed News” on the MOM website. The results also highlight corruption as the biggest problem between politics, business and the media in Mongolia. As a result, editorial independence is limited.
“Media laws need to be amended and properly implemented to ensure that professional journalism is really working as the fourth pillar of democracy,” said Rediske. Munkhmandakh added: “Hopefully, there is light at the end of the tunnel with a new generation of journalists and media owners.”
“Trust is the currency of media,” she said. “How could journalists and the media check the people in power when they themselves are owned and financed by party people in power?”
Today’s press conference was followed by a panel discussion on the results of MOM Mongolia and the next steps forward, including an Expert input on the topic of “Media Literacy” by Ljiljana Zurovac, Executive Director of the Press Council of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Media Ownership Monitor Mongolia was carried out by Reporters Without Borders in partnership with the Press Institute of Mongolia between September and December 2016. The project studied the legal environment, media concentration and ownership structures of the country’s 39 most popular national media outlets.
The Press Institute of Mongolia (PIM) is a well-established non-governmental organization which has been working towards the development of a professional and independent media in Mongolia since its establishment in 1996. Based in Ulaanbaatar, PIM focuses its activities on media training, media research and the provision of information services for the public and media. PIM’s research team has implemented more than 70 short and long term research projects on media related issues in Mongolia.
MOM is an international project launched by the international press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders. It has been carried out in eight countries worldwide, including Turkey, Tunisia, Colombia and Cambodia. It applies a generic methodology for all countries as it looks at ownership and media concentration of the most relevant audio-visual, print and online outlets, which are selected based on audience share. The Project is funded by the German Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ).