What do you want to be remembered for? I’d like to think that the last ten years of my life will be remembered by my friends in Mongolia as positive ones—except for maybe one thing.
I flicked a booger at the nation.
I had been in my role of Managing Director of Eagle TV in Mongolia for only a few months. It was 2003 and we were covering the Iraq war live. We were the only TV station in the country to do so. Mongolian TV viewers had never seen anything like it. Our station, Eagle TV, was pulling as much as 90% of the TV audience.
During the coverage, every hour we had a segment where people could call us and give their live opinions about the war, on the air, completely uncensored. We ran a live polling graphic on the screen. Nothing like this had ever been done in Mongolia before. Thousands of calls came in. A new threshold of freedom through media had taken hold and the people eagerly took advantage of it.
Within a couple of days of our coverage Mongolia’s Foreign Minister went on State TV to announce that once the government of Mongolia had decided its position on the war that the people of Mongolia should not be allowed to voice their opinion publicly. Some of the old communist ways still held sway back then, especially in the media. The next day an article appeared in the leading communist-friendly paper saying essentially the same thing.
I would have none of it.
I decided that our audience had to hear from the leadership of our station about why we were doing what we were doing. We needed to make a stand for free speech for all Mongolians. I wrote a two minute commentary, memorized my lines, and recorded a commentary to air during our prime time news. My goal was to assure the people that our station would always be a conduit of free speech and expression for the Mongolian people.