″I must be the best informed person about the balance of power in my country″ | Media Development | DW | 03.05.2018
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Media Development

"I must be the best informed person about the balance of power in my country"

Lkhagva Erdene wants to have a lasting impact on the media in Mongolia. He is an investigative reporter, TV presenter and producer, and co-founder of the Media Council of Mongolia.

It is a hard struggle to ensure the right of the Mongolian public to information, says Lkhagva Erdene. (Tim Franco)

"It is a hard struggle to ensure the right of the Mongolian public to information," says Lkhagva Erdene.

Lkhagva Erdene wants to have a lasting impact on the media in Mongolia. He is an investigative reporter, a TV presenter, producer and the co-founder of the Media Council of Mongolia, the first initiative in Mongolia that advocates media self-regulation, journalistic standards and ethical image. DW Akademie helped establish the Media Council and has been supporting their activities with BMZ funding since 2014.

Erdene and MongolTV were the reporting partners of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and Erdene is one of the journalists who were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for research on the Panama Papers.

Lkhagva Erdene spoke about his experiences with DW Akademie: 

"My name is Lkhagva Erdene and I run the newsroom at MongolTV in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Mongolian journalists do not face death threats. The real danger for us is targeted misinformation and fake news that are spread by bots or paid bloggers. I work to defend the freedom of the media at home and abroad. At MongolTV, we want to connect various figures in society and facilitate the exchange of information by providing background information and analyses. 

There is freedom of the press, but there are also threatening laws

Although plurality does exist in Mongolia, journalists and media makers struggle with difficult working conditions here. Mongolia may enjoy freedom of press on paper, but it is often difficult for me to protect my sources, or even myself, from the influence of politicians and media owners who usually pursue their own political goals. Unfortunately, 70 percent of the country's media belong to such people. There are no unions for journalists yet and the training system is hopelessly outdated. Furthermore, the Mongolian parliament recently passed a controversial law which allows high fines for journalists and bloggers, even for minor violations. Media lawyers call this "economic censorship". Together with citizens and media activists, we are fighting to reform the law so that journalists do not have to pay fines higher than three to four times more than their monthly income.

Many independent journalists, media owners and researchers worked together to set up the Media Council. We also successfully established a center for investigative journalism in Mongolia. Ensuring the Mongolian public’s right to information has proved to be a tough battle. And only with a diverse and vibrant media landscape can we win. We still have a long way to go.

Source protection is often difficult in Mongolia, says Lkhagva Erdene. Among other things, the investigative journalist was involved in the unveiling of the Panama Papers.(MongolTV)

Source protection is often difficult in Mongolia, says Lkhagva Erdene. Among other things, the investigative journalist was involved in the unveiling of the "Panama Papers".

"My goal is to serve the public in an informed manner"

My daily work begins with editorial meetings, followed by more meetings and phone calls. After that, we, as a team, take a look at the previous day's program and give each other feedback. Every Monday, I present my own 90-minute show in which I discuss the most urgent topics with six guests. One example is a recent bill on a smartphone ban in schools.

Since my editorial staff and I serve a national audience, I must know the news situation myself at all times. This pressure and the never ending flood of news keep me on my toes all week. I must be the best informed person on the balance of power in my country. It is the only way I can satisfy audiences every night.

To make sure that I do not miss an important topic, I follow global social media reporters and try to reach an audience that has not yet been served by Mongolian mainstream media.

Erdene presents a weekly discussion programme on MongolTV. (MongolTV)

Erdene presents a weekly discussion programme on MongolTV.

The audience is important when searching for ideas

The best stories we've presented in the past were based on viewer suggestions. For instance, my reporters work together with teachers to understand the systematic failure of primary school education in Mongolia. There was another story we worked on only because a mother's post in a Facebook group made us aware of air pollution.   

What impressed me the most was the research I did on the sale of a huge copper mine in Mongolia, when managers tried to close an illegal side deal while I was already hot on their heels. I was playing a cat and mouse game and it inspired me as a journalist. The whole mine sale process was like a thriller and in the end, countless questions remained unanswered. The story was published in The Diplomat."

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