Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mongolia: Researcher fined, charged with defamation for criticising Mongolian minister on Twitter


Critics through twitter criminalized for the second time and imposed high amount of fine
20 January 2015
Globe International Center

The former minister of Road and Transportation, Mr. A. Gansukh, has filed a criminal lawsuit against Mr. L. Davaapil for defaming him through social media. A first instance court hearing was held in December 2014 during which the accused was ordered to pay a 9.7 mln. MNT (approx. US$5,200) fine in compensation, in accordance with the Criminal Code, provision 111.2; the amount is 51 times higher than the minimum wage.

Davaapil became the second person in Mongolia to be found guilty of defamation through the use of social media following a complaint also filed by A. Gansukh. In 2014 a Mongolian court sentenced Mr. Ts. Bat to prison for defaming the former minister through social media. A criminal libel conviction of a blogger in Mongolia is unacceptable, stated the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media in August 2014.

In October, A. Gansukh stated in an interview that the government had saved 3.6 billion MNT during MIAT, a Mongolian airlines reform process. He tweeted about this and attached the interview. Davaapil then asked him through Twitter "For how much money did you make an agreement with Samsung for the construction of a 1 km railroad. That money you swindled in the result of the agreement is much more than the saved money you mentioned." A. Gansukh did not respond to the allegation. But he stated that he approached the Independent Authority against Corruption.

During the court hearing, Davaapil explained he is writing a Masters thesis at Sydney University on the theme of railroad investment and is currently conducting research on this issue. He is a member of the Association of Railroad Engineers. The association is critical about the construction of new railroads in Mongolia and has released about 17 publications on the issue.

Globe International Center (GIC) reminds the former minister that deciding defamation cases in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code is consistent with democratic principles and international standards ratified by Mongolia.

Defamation charges in free expression cases and against critics are not only a breach of the right to freedom of expression - they can also result in the silencing of critics and the strangling of public voices and thus have a chilling effect on free speech. GIC calls on politicians and high officials to be more tolerant and open to criticism.

In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommended that the Mongolian government decriminalize defamation. This year, Mongolia is expected to provide a report on the implementation of this recommendation.