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Mongolia - The Media
The major foreign source for media information in the late 1980s, as it had been since the 1920s, was the Soviet Union. Foreign news consisted mainly of edited material available through the Soviet news agency, Telegrafnoye Agentstvo Sovetskovo Soyuza (TASS). Other foreign bureaus located in Ulaanbaatar were the Soviet Agentstvo Pechanti Novosti (APN) and the East German Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst (ADN). MONTSAME had a staff based in, or visiting and reporting from, all capitals of its communist allies. Foreign newspapers, magazines, and books came from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. No newspapers from the United States or Britain were being distributed in Ulaanbaatar in the late 1980s. Also, distribution channels reportedly have been faulted for causing lengthy delays in deliveries to subscribers and readers. English-language materials include Mongolia Today, a magazine geared to foreign consumption, published monthly by the Mongolian embassy in New Delhi and distributed in Mongolia.
The existing political system, ruled by the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, was firmly established in Mongolia in the late twentieth century. Beginning in 1989, however, major revisions of the country's government and party structure were being undertaken, patterned after reforms going on in the Soviet Union. Although it was too early to assess the situation adequately in mid-1989, these measures were expected to meet with bureaucratic resistance, as had occurred in other communist party-ruled states undergoing reform. Still there were certain factors--political and international--that might be expected to work in favor of the reform program's success: a stable political leadership, a tradition of political conservatism and conformity, and an international climate that continued to lessen external pressures on Mongolia. The emerging relaxation in internal politics and the thaw in key external foreign relations might, if they lasted, afford Mongolian leaders valuable opportunities to establish a sense of national identity and some measure of cultural authenticity, both probably essential to Mongolia's revitalization and revival in the 1990s.
More about the Government of Mongolia.
Mongolia's approach toward the development and the dissemination of information and its policies concerning the degree of access to, and influence allowed from, other countries were undergoing significant change in the late 1980s as, particularly in 1989, official views concerning themes, events, and leading personalities in Mongolia's recent and early history were undergoing substantial revision. Many of these new interpretations were opening the way to further research on the Mongolian cultural heritage, an area previously regarded as sensitive because of its potential for arousing "nationalistic" emotions. Echoing similar events in the Soviet Union, these developments were in keeping with the political trend toward openness and democratization.
Channels of communication were government-owned and government-operated; information and propaganda were woven together in news, educational material, and entertainment. The most important body directing the media was the Press Agitation and Propaganda Section (Agitprop) of the party Central Committee. Agitprop, in conjunction with the Council of Ministers, published Unen (Truth), established in 1920. It was the most widely read newspaper; in 1988 it had a circulation of 170,000 and was published six days a week. The weekly publication of the Unen newspaper organization was Shine Hodoo (New Countryside), aimed at the rural population. Unen also published eighteen issues annually of the popular satirical magazine, Toshuul (Woodpecker), which featured cartoons and light reading material. Namyin Amdral (Party Life), with a circulation of 28,000, has served since 1923 as the Central Committee's monthly ideological organ. Ediyn Dzasgiyn, Asuudal (Economic Questions), also published by the Central Committee, carried speeches and documents concerned with political and economic affairs and was published in eighteen issues annually. Another party periodical, Uhuulagch (Agitator), emphasized propaganda material and was published bimonthly, with a circulation of 34,000 in the late 1980s.
Communications media were directed by overlapping and interlocking government commissions and committees of the People's Great Hural, the Council of Ministers, and the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. The Presidium of the People's Great Hural published a quarterly journal, Ardyn Tor (People's Power), with a circulation of 11,000. The Ministry of Culture, together with the Union of Mongolian Writers, published a weekly periodical called Utga, Dzohiol Urlag (Literature and Art). The Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Public Security jointly produced Ulaan Od (Red Star), a biweekly, and Ardyn Armi (People's Army), a quarterly magazine. The Mongolian Academy of Sciences and the Mongolian Society for the Dissemination of Knowledge published a bimonthly popular science magazine, Shinjleh Uhaan, Amidral (Science and Life). Finally, the Office of the Procurator of the Republic, the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of Justice collaborated in the publication of the quarterly journal Sotsialist Huul' Yos (Socialist Legality).
In 1987, a total of almost 130 million copies of 35 national newspapers and 38 periodicals were being published. In addition, there were nineteen provincial newspapers, mainly published biweekly by provincial party and government executive committees. The cities of Ulaanbaatar, Nalayh, Erdenet, and Darhan also had their own newspapers. The two major news agencies were Mongol Tsahilgaan Medeeniy Agentlag (MONTSAME--Mongolian Telegraph Agency) and Mongolpress. The latter published fortnightly news bulletins in Russian, English, and French. In 1987 each household reportedly received four to six publications. Another body, the Media Information Center, was established in February 1989, reportedly to expand the range of information available to the public by providing members of the press and the media with increased access to high party and government officials.
Various mass organizations also had publishing arms. The official organ of the Mongolian Revolutionary Youth League, Dzaluuchudyn Unen (Youth Truth), was published biweekly and carried league speeches and documents. Other youth journals included Dzalgamjlagch (Successor) and Dzaluu Uye (Young Generation). The Central Council of the Sukhe Bator Mongolian Pioneers Organization, together with the Youth League Central Committee, published 84 issues annually of Pioneriyn Unen (Pioneers' Truth) and was circulated to 175,000 subscribers.
The leading publications of the Central Council of the Mongolian Trade Unions was Hodolmor (Labor), published three times a week, and a bimonthly magazine entitled Mongolyn Uyldberchniy Eblel (Mongolian Trade Unions). The publishing organ of the Federation of Democratic Women was the quarterly magazine Mongolyn Emegteuchuud (Mongolian Women). The Union of Mongolian Writers published the bimonthly political and literary journal, Tsog (Spark). The Union of Mongolian Artists and the Ministry of Culture published a quarterly journal, Soyol, Urlag (Culture and Art). Another quarterly journal published by the union was Dursleh Urlag (Fine Arts).
Most titles of Mongolian publications were translations of the titles of counterpart Soviet publications, which served as models for format and content. A Russian-language newspaper, Novosty Mongolii (News of Mongolia) published 26,000 copies, three times weekly; a Chinese-language journal, Menggu Xiaoxi (News of Mongolia), was published weekly. Publications in other languages were scarce in 1989, although the situation was improving. In 1986 the Mongolia Express Agency for Publication Data was established to aid in the distribution of publications and bulletins published in several foreign languages.
Radio and television were available through Ulaanbaatar Radio and Mongoltelevidz, both of which were supervised by the State Committee for Information, Radio, and Television. In December 1988, a new radio and television center, built with Soviet aid, opened in Ulaanbaatar. It was estimated that in 1989 the center would increase the volume of broadcasting by 150 percent. Almost every family, including those residing in rural areas, had access to a radio receiver in 1989. In 1985 Mongolia had 382 broadcasting centers, providing radiobroadcasts to more than 90 percent of the population and television broadcasts to more than 60 percent. By 1987 radiobroadcasts were available eighteen hours daily through two programs, with broadcasts in Mongol, Kazakh Russian, English, French, and Chinese to sixty countries. A 1987 poll of listeners and viewers indicated that the primary sources of news information for this audience were: radio, 66 percent; the press, 21 percent; and television, 12 percent.
By 1988 an estimated 64 percent of families residing in Ulaanbaatar possessed television sets. National television broadcasts were available five times a week, or for 15,000 hours annually. Broadcasting also was available from Orbita, a Soviet satellite communications system that relays television broadcasts. Almost 60 percent of the Mongolian population viewed television by late 1987. Mongolian-originated television was available in Ulaanbaatar, Erdenet, and Darhan; in fifteen aymag centers; and in forty-eight towns and somon centers. The Orbita broadcasting was more limited.
The State Publishing House and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences supervised publishing. Each year they produced a prospectus of books to be published that year. The Sukhe Bator Publishing House produced 70 percent of Mongolia's printed matter, including 400 book titles. There also were publishing facilities in each aymag, and there were other publishing houses in Ulaanbaatar. Russian-language books always dominated the foreign category, but there also were prose and verse from France, the United States, and India, which offered a view of the noncommunist world. By 1985 Mongolia had 983 libraries housing more than 13 million volumes, most of which were located at the State Library in Ulaanbaatar.
At the Nineteenth Party Congress in 1986, Batmonh described the media as powerful "tools of openness" that were "to influence the formation of public opinion, foster a creative atmosphere in society, and inspire an active approach to life in the individual." Recognizing the chief role of the media as being to educate and to inform as well as to direct the population toward the goals and program developed by the party, Batmonh and the senior party leadership also appeared to be using media channels for improving the performance of party and government organizations. There was a new emphasis on exposing the shortcomings in economic performance and on making "the real state of affairs" known. In December 1986, Batmonh launched an attack on "bureaucracy, stagnation and passivity," calling instead for "a new and creatively courageous approach to work in an atmosphere of openness, frankness, justness and principledness." By mid-1987, the press included exchanges of letters between readers and responsible officials discussing examples of bureaucracy and government inefficiency.
At the key December 1988 Central Committee plenary session, Batmonh said that the media needed to foster in people "a scientific world outlook and further raise their social consciousness." He also extended the scope of il tod (openness), Mongolia's version of glasnost, to include a critical reappraisal of questions about Mongolian history and society by filling in the so-called "blank spots." In addition to criticisms of Tsedenbal, Political Bureau resolutions emanating from the plenary session stressed the importance of Mongolia's cultural heritage. In a major departure from the past, the party was instructed to preserve the national culture carefully and to transmit it to the next generation. Even Chinggis Khan, whom the Soviet Union repeatedly had identified as a "reactionary figure," was given an honored place in Mongolian history as founder of the nation. A two-volume biography of Chinggis, published in China's neighboring Nei Monggol Autonomous Region in 1987, reportedly was in great demand by young Mongolians.
Underlying the party's new information policy--espousing critical thinking, intellectual vitality, and national pride--was the intention to inspire and to involve the entire population in the party's developmental program. The media carried the party message throughout society through press, radio, television, publishing outlets, vocational and social clubs, films, and libraries. The selection of thematic material was being supervised closely in the late 1980s, but, in comparison with the Tsedenbal years, a relaxed atmosphere toward the media was apparent.
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