Journalists in Mongolia are calling it a historical event - the establishment of the country's first ever independent media council. Expectations for the council, which is just about to assume its actitivies, are high.
Manfred Protze (right) from the German Press Council advises members of Mongolia's Media Council on how to organize their files
Gunjidmaa Gongor, a media council board member, is one of the project's initiators. She says it was an effort to establish the council. "Many people didn't believe that we would ever reach an agreement with the most important journalist associations in the country," says Gunjidmaa Gongor, who is also the Executive Director of the Press Institute of Mongolia. "We made it work in the end though." It took the support of leading journalists as well as managers and owners of media companies to create a media regulatory body "free of political or financial interests," she says. This is a first in Mongolia's media landscape.
DW Akademie has been involved in the project since January 2014 after being approached by the project initiators for advice. In turn, DW Akademie sought to include other organizations active in promoting press freedom in Mongolia. "We felt it was essential to work with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Ulan Bator, the Press Institute of Mongolia and Globe International, which are both Mongolian NGOs, as well as the Mongolian Journalists Association," DW Akademie country coordinator Eva Mehl says.
DW Akademie contributed practical exercises and best practices from different countries. "In addition to Manfred Protze from the German Press Council, Ljiljana Zurovac from the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina was another real asset as a trainer," Mehl says. "Zurovac was able to draw from the transformation process that had occurred in her own country, and offer Mongolian journalists profound insight into the media self-regulation process."
Limitations to press freedom
In Mongolia, the shift to democracy and a market economy has set off a media explosion. Currently around 500 media outlets serve a population of just under three million people. Corruption and political sway continue to curtail press freedom, however. The number of libel suits filed against journalists is on the rise, as is self-censorship. According to information gathered by Mongolian NGO Globe International, 172 websites have been blocked since 2012.
Ulan Bator is booming - and the mix of traditional and modern is challenging for the media landscape as well
The next step for the newly elected members of the media council is to raise public awareness of the workings of the council. This will be done with the support of DW Akademie and other partners. "People in rural areas in particular are often uninformed. Many have heard about the media council but they don't know what it does. We need to get that information out there," says online editor Bolortulga Erdenebileg, who works for the public service broadcaster MNB (Mongolian National Broadcaster) and was elected by the Website Association to serve on the council. The Media Council of Mongolia's ultimate goal is to become an independent and credible organization respected by journalists, media, civil society and government alike.