A LANDMARK EVENT IN MONGOLIA’S JOURNALISM
Mongolian journalists together with their international counterparts, for the first time, converged on Ulaanbaatar to discuss opportunities and challenges of investigative journalism.
The two-day dialogue was organized by the Press Institute of Mongolia with support from DW Akademie, Global Investigative Journalists’ Network and Mongol TV and apart from Mongolian journalists, it brought together well-known international experts from different countries.
A landmark event of the conference was the launching of Mongolian Center of Investigative Journalism and its website.
Mongolian journalists were unanimous that the time had come for promoting investigative journalism in the country. Said M. Mönkhmandakh, Executive Director of the Press Institute of Mongolia, “Many people say, investigative journalism in Mongolia is ‘too dangerous’ or even impossible. Bureaucracy and secrecy culture are prevailing in government institutions, corruption is thriving and there are no legal regulations to protect journalists revealing wrongdoings. Nevertheless, we can’t wait until, for example, proper mechanisms are in place to ensure maximum disclosure of government operations. We need to play our watchdog role while building democratic institutions and mindsets. Otherwise, the emerging democracy can perish before unfolding. Especially because democracy is so fragile right now, media should step in to protect and promote people’s beliefs in democratic values, such as the rule of law, equality, truth and justice. To do so, we need to promote and strengthen investigative journalism to hold people and institutions accountable and promote values that serve as the basis of democratic societies. ”
In comparison to some other young democracies Mongolia has a relatively strong legal environment for media freedom and pluralism. The country has a Law on Freedom of Information which guarantees mechanisms to ensure transparency of government organizations. The new Criminal law says that obstructing citizens and media from seeking, receiving and disseminating legally not prohibited information is a criminal offense. Nevertheless, there are no legal and self-regulatory mechanisms to ensure editorial independence of media. Pressures in the form of direct threats and economic censorship (e.g. withdrawing advertisement) do happen.
“As regards the safety of investigative reporters, we need to advocate for improving the legal environment for media freedom, but we also need to strengthen the professionalism of journalism. Too often journalists are targeted by people in power because of professional mistakes that can be avoided,” said Mönkhmandakh.
Said Mark Hunter, one of the founders of international investigative journalism, who attended the conference: “Investigative journalism is not complicated, it’s just more work, you have to do certain things – you have to be more organized, you have to plan ahead, you have to take more time with your sources and find more sources. Conceptually it’s not as difficult, what makes it look difficult is that you have to manage more information, you have to find ways to see clearly through all the things that are there, that’s the chief difficulty. It’s not really complex, artificial intelligence is complex, investigative journalism is not especially complex. It’s not rocket science. It’s more like popular mechanics.”