IREX and the Asia Foundation launch program to enhance freedom of expression in Mongolia

IREX and the Asia Foundation launch program to enhance freedom of expression in Mongolia

Lauren Javins


A group of people standing on a staircase

Last year was a landmark year for press freedoms in Mongolia. While a social media bill that would give a government body the authority to remove social media content, including factual reporting, was vetoed by the president and upheld by the parliament, the Law on Protecting Human Rights on social media was amended to prohibit users from posting any information regarding public officials without explicit government authorization. This will have a chilling effect on media freedom in the country.

Nonetheless, a bright spot remains; journalists and civil society actors in the country continue to voice dissent and are not silent on these issues. As more bills curtailing journalistic freedom, freedom of expression, and the right to information are being written, civil society and journalist associations are becoming louder. National initiatives among CSOs and academics to combat information manipulation through media literacy is increasingly becoming prevalent, and a network of media lawyers has recently been established to provide support to those seeking to continue to report on hot button issues.

For these reasons, The Asia Foundation and IREX launched The Media and Civil Society Strengthening (MACSS) program in Mongolia, in July of 2023, to assist Mongolian media and civil society in envisaging a future in which Mongolia’s independent civil society and media serve as force multipliers to advance social accountability; with enhanced civic engagement grounded in fact-based discourse, bolstered by a vibrant, pluralistic information ecosystem, and citizens’ enhanced resilience to information manipulation. The project aims to contribute to the wider objective of strengthening democratic governance by supporting and bolstering social accountability mechanisms and improving public access to information in Mongolia. 

The MACSS program in Mongolia is part of a larger effort to create collaboration between the CSO and media sectors around the world. This larger effort, named CSM-STAND seeks to create traction globally. MACSS main goals are to:

  1.  Provide diverse, high-quality information to reduce hate speech and information manipulation during critical times and,
  2. Deliver strategies and funding to enhance journalist safety.

To deliver on these two goals, The Asia Foundation and IREX are embarking on a multi-year, multi-pronged approach to provide an analysis of Mongolia's information landscape, scale existing media incubation programs, and provide expertise in physical, digital, and psychosocial safety. IREX teams will supports journalists and civil society activists in Mongolia as they continue to uphold the promise of being “the beacon of democracy” in East Asia. Through a range of IREX’s Information Resilience Approaches, the team will strengthen Mongolian media by supporting independent media and watchdog groups to create healthy information environments, codesign technological tools which promote information resilience, and train citizens on resilience to manipulative information so that citizens are able to rapidly identify manipulative information, take active steps to resist its pull and influence, learn from their experience, and develop proactive measures to prevent future harm.

As the Mongolian proverb goes, “Aiibel buu hii, hiibel buu ai”, or “If you are afraid to do something, don’t do it. And if you do something, don’t be afraid.”

Civil Society and Media-Strengthened Together and Advancing in New Directions (CSM-STAND), a five-year Leader with Associates Award with Pact as the holder of the leader award and recipient of the Leader Award, and IREX as co-lead and head of the media component. Launched in 2021, the CSM-STAND consortium’s goal is to foster independent civic forces; enhance civic engagement; and build vibrant, resilient, and self-reliant civil society and media sectors that cultivate more pluralistic and democratic societies. CSM-STAND is funded by USAID.