LETTER FROM THE EDITORS: Mongolian Media Council should protect press freedom, not impede it

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The UB Post would like to formally state our rejection of the Media Council of Mongolia verdict that we breached their Code of Ethics No. 3 stating, “No one shall be discriminated for reasons of race, nationality, gender, age, disability, sexuality, religion or marital status,” with regard to the editorial titled “The threat of radicalism under our nose”, published on The UB Post on June 24, 2019.

As the defamation lawsuit pertaining to the article in question is currently being processed by the courts, The UB Post would like to remind the Media Council once again that the council has no legal authority to intervene in issues currently in due process with the courts of Mongolia. Before being established in 2015, the Media Council declared to media organizations that it would only address complaints before it reaches court level, mitigating unnecessary lawsuits against the press. It is regrettable that Mongolian media organizations are now subjected to double pressures, by the court and the council, for the same issue.

The complainant lodged a defamation complaint with the Chingeltei Police before reaching out to the Media Council and the Civil Court with regard to the article, and the police found no defamation as The UB Post provided ample evidence and testimonies supporting the factual claims in the article.

Pertaining to the Media Council judgment that The UB Post violated their Code of Ethics, we would like to point out that there were serious errors in procedure for handling complaints on the part of the council. When arriving at its judgment, the Media Council did not give The UB Post the opportunity to defend its case, thus we believe the council’s judgment is invalid as it was unfair and based solely on the complainant’s claims.

Furthermore, The UB Post would like to underline that to accuse an organization or an individual of discrimination is well outside of the scope of the legally permitted activity of the Media Council, a nongovernmental organization with no special authority. Discrimination is a serious matter that is related to human rights, thus regulated by the Constitution of Mongolia and other international conventions and treaties. As nongovernmental organizations are not the authorized bodies in Mongolia that determines or passes verdict on discrimination, and as the internal codes of nongovernmental organizations do not stand above the Mongolian Law, the Media Council must adhere to the law before subjecting media industry players into their Code of Ethics as their ruling regarding The UB Post is tantamount to defamation, whose recent criminalization in Mongolia we oppose.

Article 47 of the Constitution of Mongolia states, “The judicial power is vested exclusively in courts. Unlawful institution of courts under and circumstances and exercise of judicial power by any other organization but courts is prohibited.”

As the first independent English-language newspaper in Mongolia, established in 1996, The UB Post has always upheld strict ethical principles and has worked with international and domestic experts and specialists over the years to improve our standards to continue delivering high-quality content and stories from within Mongolia to our readers from all over the world.

As a self regulatory organization, the Media Council has potential to contribute to safeguarding the press freedom and the right to free speech. The UB Post urges the Media Council to acknowledge its errors and cease interfering in matters of the court, which puts additional pressure on the press, and make the relevant changes to streamline its operations with its core mandate of protecting the freedom of the press.

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, The UB Post extends warm greetings to our readers, correspondents, partners and peers in the media industry.

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan