‘Media outlets should not be penalized for professional misconduct’

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      The Standing Committee on Justice held a press conference on January 24 to provide information on its work during the 2021 fall session of Parliament.

Chairman of the standing committee S.Byambatsogt reported that the standing committee met 13 times. Another three meetings were held with the Standing Committee on Innovation and e-Policy during the fall session.

He noted that the standing committee reviewed 91 bills, seven parliamentary resolutions and 10 draft resolutions of the standing committee. Moreover, a working group was established to discuss and prepare draft decisions of Parliament and monitor the implementation of laws. The working group met 39 times and prepared 12 bill presentations. 

During meetings, the standing committee reviewed one conclusion of the Constitutional Court and 11 issues on appointment and dismissal of officials. It prepared and discussed 18 opinions, six presentations and 118 dissenting opinions, and approved 80 bills and six parliamentary resolutions at the fall session.

In collaboration with the Standing Committee on Innovation and e-Policy, it developed the Law on Information Transparency, Law on the Protection of Personal Information, and Law on e-Signatures, which were approved by Parliament.

Lawmaker S.Byambatsogt emphasized, “The Law on Information Transparency provides for the confidentiality of information collected during the investigation of crimes and enforcement of court decisions, information collected during state inspections, and information related to national security and national cultural heritage.”

A total 68 information of five types are included in the Law on Information Transparency, and information respondents or government agencies and officials will update the information regularly. In particular, government agencies will disclose information on vacancies, successful and unsuccessful tenders, and training with state funding, according to S.Byambatsogt.

“It shall be prohibited to detain, investigate or restrict the liberty of any person except in cases specified in the law. No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. Family and defense counsel must be notified of the reason for an arrest within the period prescribed by law. The law protects the confidentiality of personal and correspondence and the inviolability of the home. In order to implement this provision, the Law on the Protection of Personal Information has been revised and approved,” the chairman informed.

In accordance with the revised Law on Protection of Personal Information, a public official who discloses confidential information will be subject to criminal liability. Citizens’ privacy is to be protected by law. This includes ethnicity, religion, beliefs, health, correspondence, genetic information, e-signatures, convictions, sexual orientation, sexuality, record of violence, parents’ names, personal reputations, date of birth, place of birth, address, location, civil registration number, property, education, and membership.

Parliamentarian S.Byambatsogt underscored that the Law on e-Signature was passed in 2011, but its implementation has been very weak. Today, the revised law will allow us to receive information via mobile phones, he said.

The amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code provides for a one-time postponement of 30 days in order to resolve serious violations of the law or gather sufficient evidence through an investigation. It also enables the court to make lawful and reasonable decisions. In accordance with the law, a defendent will be able to file an opposition with a prosecutor.

The lawmaker emphasized that the law was amended to meet the human rights provisions of the Constitution of Mongolia. Legislator B.Enkhbayar said that the appellate and supervisory courts’ right to send back a case to a prosecutor has led defendants to seek retrials. This is a serious violation of the universally accepted principle of a one-time final trial, he noted.

He added, “During the fall session, D.Gangabaatar was appointed as a member of the Constitutional Court and non-judge members of the Judicial Disciplinary Committee and Judicial General Council were selected in an open and independent manner.”

The agenda of the parliamentary spring session includes the discussion of the Law on Combating Alcoholism, Law on Prevention of Crimes and Offences, Law on Infringements, Law on Legal Assistance, and Law on the Legal Status of Lawyer.

Moreover, the Standing Committee on Justice is expected to review the Civil Code, General Administrative Law and Bankruptcy Law, which have not yet been submitted to Parliament.

Parliamentarian J.Sukhbaatar stressed, “Standing committee members worked proactively. The main activity of the standing committee is to consistently implement amendments to the Constitution of Mongolia. In particular, the Law on Courts is being implemented. A new standard has been set for the appointment of non-judge members of the Judicial Disciplinary Committee and Judicial General Council. We have done real work to ensure the public’s right to know. In the past, when there was a Judicial Council, five members were secretly appointed even before their names were revealed.”

During the discussion of the Law on Public and Private Information, many lawmakers said the law would not be complete without amending the Law on State and Official Secrecy. Legislator B.Enkhbayar explained, “In this regard, the government is obliged to submit a bill on its own initiative. The bill might be submitted to Parliament at the spring session. This is because the Law on State and Official Secrecy states that the government, line ministries, and directors of state-owned enterprises can decide whether to keep a piece of information confidential. Secondly, anyone who discloses information stamped by the head of an organization is liable to two to eight years in prison under the Criminal Code. This is wrong, so it needs to be changed.”

In connection with this, on March 21, 2021, some lawmakers submitted a draft amendment to the Criminal Code. The issue of whether to discuss the bill will be decided at the spring session. After the bill was submitted, the presidential election took place and people claimed that the idea of the law was later distorted and that it wouldn’t be supported. The current law does not differentiate between intentional and unintentional and organized dissemination of information. However, mistakes can be made due to the lack of information. Media outlets should not be penalized for professional misconduct, he said.

Misheel Lkhasuren