The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party kept tight control of the country’s few media and allowed no criticism. The press all carried identical articles written by the government news agency Khaosan Pathet Lao (KPL) or by officials of the information and culture ministry, which employs all the country’s journalists, most of whom are members of the Laos’ only political party.
Some KPL stories in 2002 reported corruption among customs officials and late payment of teachers’ salaries. The Lao Human Rights Movement, a dissident group based in Europe, noted an unprecedented article from the agency about the problems young people had studying and finding a job when opportunities were reserved for the offspring of Party officials.
The 40 or so foreign journalists who came to cover the February parliamentary elections, in which only one candidate was not a member of the Party, were allowed to work fairly freely however, though they had to have special journalist’s visas.
A press law, announced in 2001, was still being discussed at the end of 2002, with the draft being negotiated between the government and the Journalists’ Association before being sent to parliament, where it was expected to be considered at the end of 2003, according to a local journalist.
There was still no news of the five leaders of the student pro-democracy protest in October 1999, including Thongpaseuth Keuakoun, author of many articles and pamphlets about the situation in Laos and the need for democratic reforms.