Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, let me express my thanks to the Globe International Center, the Open Society Forum, UNESCO and the Austrian Embassy for organizing this important event.
I’m also happy that Ms. Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, is personally taking part. Taking this opportunity, I sincerely congratulate her on her recent honor with the Medal of Charlemagne – a prestigious European award in the field of media.
Let me extend my warm welcome to Mr. Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO which stands at the forefront of the UN fight for freedom of press and information worldwide.
Allow me to congratulate all Mongolian media organizations and journalists on the World Press Freedom Day.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When I was Foreign Minister a while ago, I took the initiative that Mongolia hosted the Fifth Conference of the Freedom Online Coalition. This initiative was warmly supported by the Coalition member countries in Tallinn one year ago, and we are all here to witness the initiative to fruit.
It was not a coincidence that when choosing the date of the Conference we decided to run the Conference consecutive to the World Press Freedom Day. It had a certain philosophy behind.
Today when we talk about press, we happen to include online information outlets in addition to the traditional media means like newspaper, radio and television. Thanks to Internet, we are given access to newspapers, radio stations and TV broadcastings online. Moreover, we can react to these publications and broadcasting instantly with our opinions. In other words, the traditional one-way media channels have become now interactive, two-way.
On the other hand, the interactive media channels allow all citizens to participate which is of a paramount importance. But this also requires that journalists have to meet higher standards to distinguish themselves from the mass participants.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The press sector has been always of a special significance for us, the Mongolians. There are a number of specifics for the interest of the Mongolians in information emanating from millennia of our nomadic way of life and 70-years of a communist regime.
First, the Mongolians who are few in number and scattered around this vast territory have always been keen to welcome guests and travelers and learn from them and exchange views. Therefore, information has been valued as gift.
Second, the Mongolians traditionally believe news and talk at face value. This is not necessarily a naiveness, but it is our culture not to lie and not to trust gossips.
Third, when the modern newspapers, radio and television arrived in Mongolia, we were already in the socialist camp. Therefore, these media were born to serve as the means of propaganda for the communist party ideology. No alternative views and no outside information were allowed.
Thanks to the 1990 Democratic Revolution, the press freedom now became a reality in Mongolia and every citizen was given the freedom of opinion and expression.
Therefore, the press freedom is comparatively a new phenomenon in Mongolia.
Our press representatives have been constantly working to nurture and strengthen this freedom. During the past 25 years of democracy in Mongolia, we have achieved a tremendous progress in press freedom. But not everything is fine yet.
As Dunja said the other day, “the Freedom of Expression is akin to oxygen. We need it to survive.” Unless we protect and nurture the oxygen in atmosphere, we will continue to face the threat of air pollution.
There will be always “needs and excuses” to suppress the press freedom where there are dictatorship and authoritarianism and where the democracy backslides. Attempts and attacks are continuously made in the world, even in Europe and Mongolia, to curb or manipulate the press freedom.
I should recognize that the Mongolian journalists are working in difficult conditions. On one hand, the political pressure continues to work. On the other, the small media market in Mongolia seriously limits the value of the journalist’s work and their financial independence.
Therefore, journalists must adopt innovative approaches to ensure their financial independence and to be able to strictly observe their work ethics.
I think in the conditions of Mongolia the best way is to create a multistakeholder mechanism to support the media organizations and representatives. It might take a form of fund based on stringless and voluntary contributions from the state, private sector and citizens.
Our journalists must develop a very active cooperation with their foreign colleagues and their associations and international organizations.
Our society’s transition to democracy is still in infancy. Though the social activism of our citizens is flourishing, the culture of expressing their views and opinions in right ways is not yet mature. Our citizens need to learn how to respect other’s opinion, dignity and privacy and refrain from xenophobia while expressing themselves.
That is why we are paying a great attention to civic education and democracy education. As you know, respective resolutions were adopted by the United Nations and UNESCO.
One of our lessons of the democratic transition is that we have ignored the need to fundamentally change the mentality of our citizens to live in the globalized world and democratic society through education for global citizenship and for democracy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Mongolia is one of the founding members of the Freedom Online Coalition and considered as a thriving example of democracy’s success in Asia. We have gone this far through achievements and failures.
No one will disagree that the media organizations and journalists and the press freedom have to play a leading role in cementing our achievements and in recovering from the failures.
I have no doubt that our journalists will continue fighting for truth and to make justice and press freedom as societal norms.
As a member of parliament, I will continue supporting our journalists. Recently, I together with some like-minded MPs have established a Parliamentary Support Group for Internet Freedom. This is an initiative with an aim to lobby within our Parliament to expand the spirit of online freedom, to prevent any provisions curbing the press freedom sneaking into new legislation and to codify the basic principles of online freedom.
We will work together to this end.
I wish you every success and thank you.