RSF commends presidential veto of a dangerous social media bill

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.

In 2021, Mongolia was officially invited to join the 50 countries that already endorsed the International Partnership for Information and Democracy, a process originally initiated by RSF, which aims at implementing democratic safeguards in the information and communication space.

Mongolia ranked 90th out of 180 in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index.