Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Photojournalist assaulted by restaurant manager, his camera broken, after taking pictures in kitchen

IFEX (International Freedom of Expression eXchange) released two press freedom alerts on Mongolia on July 11.

On 24 June 2007, the manager of Chinggis 3 restaurant in Sukhbaatar District accused S. Tuul, a photojournalist with the newspaper "Social Mirror", of taking photos in the restaurant without permission, kicked him in the head and broke his camera.

Following clients' complaints that Chinggis 3 restaurant serves food containing insects, Tuul went to the restaurant to investigate. In the restaurant's kitchen, Tuul took pictures documenting the unhygienic conditions in which the food is cooked. As the journalist was leaving the scene, Mr. Naraa, the restaurant's manager, attacked him for infringing upon the restaurant's commercial secrets.

When Tuul went to the Sukhbaatar District police station the next day to file a complaint, Ts. Gankhuyag, chief of the Case Registration Desk, did not accept his complaint under the pretext of being on a lunch break. On 26 June, the journalist's complaint was rejected under another pretext. On 27 June, Ts. Gankhuyag again refused to file the complaint, yelling: "Why do you journalists take pictures wherever you want?"

Article 6.1 of Chapter 1 of the Law on Organization Secrets prohibits concealing information that reveals the impact of a business entity's activities, production, services, technical equipment and technologies on public health and the environment.

As a follow-up to the news story in "Social Mirror" and clients' complaints, N. Valya, inspector at the Specialized Inspection Agency of the capital city, inspected the restaurant and concluded that the it did not have a professional cook, and that the food served there does not meet basic hygienic standards. The inspector temporarily suspended the restaurant's operating license.
This restaurant is located near the Children's Creativity Center. But I'm not sure which one is that, there are two Chinggis. Also, Odriin Sonin (Daily News) reported its photojournalist was assaulted by mother-in-law of the President of Mongolia at the Central Stadium.
On 6 July 2007, six members of Mongolian National Public Radio and TV's (MNPRTV) Collective Board obtained the legal permission for a hunger strike and went to hospital for a health test. According to the Collective Board's statement, the hunger strike was to be staged to call for the dismissal of MNPRTV's National Board (the broadcaster's governing body). The board is alleged to have repeatedly violated the law on public service broadcasting, undermined the independence of the MNPRTV editor's office and violated journalists' professional rights.

The Collective Board members held a press conference on 12 June to talk about inadequate implementation of the Law on Public Radio and TV, which came into force on 1 July 2005, leading to substantial changes in the policy of Mongolian Public Radio and TV. In response, MNPRTV's management convened a press conference to counter the Collective Board. While covering these two press conferences, MNPRTV's "MM" Agency deleted and distorted parts of the Collective Board's press conference, and only broadcast MNPRTV management's views in detail. On the day after "MM" Agency's programme, the MNPRTV Editor's Office for Social and Economic Programmes failed to broadcast its interview with the Collective Board and instead ran a biased news story, as prescribed by Director-General M. Naranbaatar.

As a result of the ongoing dispute between MNPRTV's Collective Board and its National Board, which began in 2006, Collective Board members began their hunger strike on 14 June 2007. The dispute heated up when the professional skills test conducted among MNPRTV personnel led to the firing of over 40 people.

In response to the strike, MNPRTV's National Board revoked the MNPRTV General Director's decision to fire a large number of journalists on the pretext of poor test results. On 27 June, L. Ninjjamts, who was appointed chief of the broadcaster's Human Resources Department without any regard to established selection procedures, was also dismissed by the National Board. Ninjjamts is considered by the Collective Board to be the initiator of the mass firings. The Collective Board judged these actions to fall short of their demands and continued their strike.

Parliament set up a working group to look into the events surrounding the strike. The National Board and Collective Board engaged in bilateral consultations to resolve their outstanding differences.

On 8 July 2007, the six members of MNPRTV's Collective Board ceased their hunger strike. Globe International NGO and the Trade Union helped the National Board and Collective Board reach a deal that led to the cessation of the hunger strike.