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Mongolia: New Restrictions on Reporters’ Access to Main Government Building

(Dec. 3, 2009) It was reported on August 5, 2009, that Colonel G. Lhagvasuren, the security head for Mongolia's Government House, the site of the country's parliament and government, had explained to journalists at a press conference on August 4 new rules restricting their movement inside the building. Lhagvasuren contended that the rules do not violate the right to obtain information, as some journalists argued. He stated, “[w]e have only made the procedures to obtain information more systematic,” because in the past the three official media institutions in Government House (for the President, Parliament, and the government), which are “to provide all necessary information to the media … did not work properly and journalists had to seek information.” He indicated that henceforth the official institutions would work at keeping the media informed. (Official Explains New Rules for Journalists Attending Mongolian Parliament, NEWS.MN, Aug. 5, 2009, Open Source Center online subscription database, No.CEP20090805950195.)

In response to the question of how the decision was made that there are too many reporters coming to the building, Lhagvasuren replied that there are 800 workers in Government House, but in the past more than 400 journalists had been authorized to enter. With the cooperation of the media companies, that number had been reduced to 320, he stated. He added, “[r]eporters' work cannot be governed only by the Press Freedom Law. They have to obey the rules of Government House too when they come here on work.” (Id.)

One journalist acknowledged that the changes might be good for the presidential and government media departments, but averred that “parliament members are elected by the people and journalists have the duty to write about them.” Lhagvasuren responded that having the president, the government, and the parliament all housed in the same building presented “a unique security situation.” He argued that “[t]he rules now in effect are not really obstructive. The room for journalists must be equipped with more equipment. The rule can always be changed after a period of trial. Let's see how it works.” (Id.)