The sultan, who has since 1967 held the posts of prime minister, defence minister, financial minister, rector of the university, chief of police and commander of the believers, has never favoured the emergence of a pluralist press.
Journalists on the rare privately-owned publications in the sultanate can be punished by prison sentences of up to three years for publishing “false news”. Self-censorship is commonplace and freedom of expression limited. In June 2006, three men were sentenced to one year in prison for having sent “seditious” and “insulting” mobile phone messages to the family of the leader.
The sultanate’s subjects have access to a television network via cable, including the BBC, which marks a contrast with the staid programmes on Brunei television, which is, of course, state-owned. The expansion of the Internet makes it impossible to censor articles “contrary to Islam or the honour of the royal family” as laid down by the authorities. Borneo Bulletin, which has a web version, carries a photo or an article about the sultan’s activities on almost every one of its front pages.