UN Resident Coordinator’s Speech on World Press Freedom Day 2017

May 3, 2017


Mr. Galaarid, President of Confederation of Mongolian Journalists,

Mr. Bold, Member of Parliament,

Ms. Sarangerel, Member of the Parliament

Mr. Enkhbayar, Vice Minister of Justice and Home Affairs

Ms. Uyanga, Secretary General of UNESCO National Commission,

Ms. Naranjargal, President and CEO of Globe International center

Distinguished guests, esteemed journalists and colleagues,

World Press Freedom Day is a time to celebrate our basic human right of freedom of expression and access to information. It is also a time to reaffirm how vital a free and independent media has been, and continues to be, for democracy, and development everywhere.

Journalists hold people in power to account. They give a voice to those who have none. They equip us with the knowledge to make decisions affecting our lives. They share stories that offer hope for our future. They expose truths we may otherwise never hear.

Every day around the world, journalists make great sacrifices to bring us the truth. Too often, they lose their security, their jobs, their freedom, wellbeing and even their lives in doing so.

In Mongolia, journalists have shown their determination and professionalism to play their role in nation building. They have made democratic institutions stronger, and strengthened public engagement. Their critical analysis of politics, the economy, environment and society brings light to the issues affecting every Mongolian.

In the last twenty-five years, Mongolia has become a champion of democracy and human rights in this region. Its media has transformed from a state mouthpiece into a largely free media, offering a public service. Credit must be given to Mongolian policy makers who put in place the legislation for this to happen including the Law on Information Transparency and Right to Information.  A new Media Council was also set up in February 2015 and is enabling a more supportive reporting environment. Today, Mongolia has about 500 media outlets for just 3 million people. Social media is widespread. Even nomads are now on Facebook and Twitter.

But while we may all have more information, constraints on it are on the rise in Mongolia, and across the world. In this year’s World Press Freedom Index, media freedom fell in two thirds of countries. Mongolia slipped nine places, to 69th out of 180. Its vast media runs the risk of being undermined, by ownership that is unclear, and often politically affiliated. This lack of transparency and independence in ownership risks limiting the ability of media to report impartially.

Concerns over media self-censorship in Mongolia are also growing. Proposed changes to the Law on Infringement – including a new defamation clause – may lead to journalists no longer daring to speak up. It is essential that legal procedures be developed, so journalists can prove their case.

The Law of Mongolia on Freedom of Media is well-established. Therefore, when proposing any changes to media laws or policies, the media should be consulted, as a central stakeholder.

Mongolia’s democracy – and economy – flourished over the past two decades in part because a free press. Voters and investors rely on accurate information to make decisions that affect the nation. It is therefore vital to protect press freedom for Mongolia to continue deepening its democracy, and safeguard its impressive gains in economic and human development.

Any loss in media freedom should not be taken lightly, for the rights of journalists and the rights of citizens are one and the same: when the former is eroded, so too is the latter. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes this by defining the right to freedom of expression as both the right to receive and impart information.

Certainly, misinformation and inaccurate reporting are concerns, particularly in social media, which lacks the editorial oversight of traditional media. We need new tools and new technology to ensure accuracy of reporting globally, including on new media. Every country around the world is challenged by these issues. We must work together on finding innovative solutions, rather than shortcuts that may not address the problem.

A free press and free public releases more information, both true and false. Yet only through a plurality of perspectives can the truth be found.

To this effect, the United Nation’s Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said today, and I quote:

“We need leaders to defend a free media. This is crucial to counter prevailing misinformation. We need everyone to stand for our right to truth. (…) because a free press advances peace and justice for all”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Freedom of expression is both a means to, and a goal of, sustainable development. The globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 – to end poverty, reduce inequality and protect our planet – cannot be achieved without a free press.

If we wish to turn development goals from aspirations on paper to reality in Mongolia, we must galvanize action, for which awareness is a must. I encourage the journalists among us to help create the public oversight that is crucial to development, through objective, effective reporting. To be independent watchdogs, tracking the country’s progress. And to provide platforms and channels for dialogue and discussion between experts, institutions and citizens.

I would like to thank Mongolian journalists for their contributions to the country’s development over the now 55 years it has been a UN member state. You were the witnesses of a revolution; the observers of elections; the tellers of policies; the checks on power; the messengers of progress and correspondents of challenges still being overcome. For these reasons, and many more, your work is vital to ours.

The media’s voice is every citizen’s voice. For their rights, welfare and freedoms to be defended and advanced, for this generation and those to come, we must protect our press.

Thank you.