Violations of press freedom were rare in Mongolia, but the government still used the state-owned radio and TV as a propaganda tool. Other methods including bribery were used to limit criticism of the authorities.
Prime Minister Nambaryn Enkhbayar continued to control the national radio and TV broadcaster, the only one to cover the entire country, and used it to promote the activities of his government and party. The opposition had only limited access to its programming. "I have to pay to get my statements broadcast on TV and they sometimes refuse them," an opposition parliamentarian said.
Despite the 1998 press law, the government led by the former communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) has not completely liberalised the news media. A draft law on public radio and television has been blocked by the government since 2001. Some observers meanwhile claim that the prime minister is bribing editors and journalists, especially by means of a public fund run by his wife that is meant to support the news media. A journalist who was fired from the privately-owned TV station Channel 25 in 2003 after investigating the privatisation of a state-owned bank revealed that the station’s management had signed a cooperation agreement with the prime minister’s office in exchange for financial support.
There are more than 30 newspapers, 20 FM radio stations and 26 local TV stations in the provinces. Their resources are limited and they must often resist the hostility of local authorities. In February 2003, the government’s media bureau began an investigation into the local press, asking provincial authorities to fill out a form on each news media identifying its founder, its frequency (for radios), its broadcast coverage or circulation, the names of editors or directors, its editorial line, its sources of financing and its relations with the authorities. The existence of this initiative was revealed by the opposition daily Udriyin Sonin, which pointed out that the press law banned the central and provincial authorities from exercising any control over the news media. The newspaper said the prime minister had ordered this "political census" in an attempt to keep a closer watch on local news media that were considered too independent.
A libel suit by the ruling MPRP against Gombo Dashrentsen of Udriyin Sonin, demanding 300 million tugriks (more than 220,000 euros) in damages, was transferred to the Ulan Bator prosecutor on 25 April. Dashrentsen faced a sentence of between six and eight months in prison for reporting the alleged embezzlement of 200 million tugriks (about 150,000 euros) in public funds. He had concluded that money for a development project was channelled into interest-free loans for companies whose directors, including the then deputy food and agriculture minister, put them to private use. When investigators questioned Dashrentsen, they asked him to reveal his sources.