Mongolia, a liberal democracy since the early 1990s, broadly respects the principles of freedom and media pluralism, though its regulation still lacks basic legal protection for the confidentiality of sources and imperfect defamation laws encourage abusive lawsuits against journalists, stirring self-censorship.
In Mongolia, television is the most popular media, accounting for at least 60% of the market. Mongolian National Broadcaster, the only public service media group, consists of TV channels, radio, and websites and is one of the most watched and listened to media in the country. The most popular daily newspapers are Unuudur (Today), Udriin sonin (Daily News), and Zuunii Medee (Century News). At the same time, Montsame News Agency, which has 6 newspapers in different languages, remains state-owned despite the 1998 Media Freedom Law which states that the agency should be transformed into a public service broadcaster and that the state should not own media.
Mongolian media ownership is very concentrated and lacks transparency. Whether owned privately or by the state, most Mongolian media openly show their affiliation to the government or political parties. Media outlets' ability to act as watchdogs is limited by the pressure from politicians.
More than half of all defamation cases in Mongolia are brought against journalists and media outlets. Harsh financial penalties force them to censor themselves and curtail the development of independent and investigative media. Many cases of journalists accused of spreading false information are based on petitions and complaints from high-ranking political officials, members of parliament, civil servants, or government agencies.
For a market of only three million people, there are around 500 media outlets, mostly privately owned. The owners of Mongolian media do not engage in the industry solely for profit, but also as a tool to articulate their political preferences and to protect their economic interests. The low pay and high workload of journalists in Mongolia lead them to accept being paid to produce certain content, which damages public trust in the media.
Mongolians commonly distrust the media due to concerns about the quality of content and their handling of major political events. According to a survey conducted by RSF in 2016, Mongolian National Public Radio and Television enjoys the highest credibility with a 44% trust rate, compared to daily newspapers (10%) and online news sources (5%).
Many Mongolian journalists experience some form of threats, pressure, or insults related to their work, and several cases of harassment and violence have been reported.