Mongolia Election Violence

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UPDATE (12:12AM ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA): PRESIDENT ENKHBAYAR HAS DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY AND ORDERED THE SHUT DOWN OF ALL MEDIA EXCEPT STATE TV FOR FOUR DAYS.

EARLIER: I haven’t gotten much sleep since the station began phoning me reports that protests over Mongolia’s election results have turned violent. The MPRP HQ is under attack. Police have fired into the crowd. Protesters have become violent. There is bloodshed. Ambulances are on their way to address the injured. The MPRP building is on fire. Protesters are becoming more violent and blocking the access of emergency vehicles to the building and even pelting the fire engine with rocks. Army troops have been called to the scene. Eagle journalists estimate there could be as many as 20,000 protesters involved. If so, this would be the largest anti-government protest since Mongolia’s peaceful democratic revolution.

While watching the events online through Skype, one our employees exclaimed, “I’ve never seen such a thing in Mongolia before! This is so scary!”

Eagle is broadcasting the events live, but apparently no other stations are reporting the events live. State TV did for a while, but for reasons unknown to me they have ceased. Though we did receive a report that their microwave equipment was damaged in the protest.

We are scrambling extra resources to cover the events. Associated Press is resourcing Eagle TV video for international coverage.
We have received some minor pressure to stop the broadcasts, but are continuing.

It amazes me that out of 12 terrestrial competitors, and additional cable only TV stations in the capital city, that no one is covering these breaking events. Thousands are people are involved in the protests. The HQ of the ruling party has come under violent attack. These are unprecedented events in Mongolia.

Finally, other stations have started giving coverage.

UPDATE: An informant in the government has let us know that officials are discussing the forced shut down of Eagle TV for our coverage—even though other stations are also now covering the event.

UPDATE: We’ve received a number of threats against Eagle for the coverage, including threats against the building (set it on fire). Security is moving to protect the property against potential overnight threats.

UPDATE: Most of the protests have died out, but a few small fires are still burning. Party and government leaders called a joint press conference to call for calm, but also blamed one another’s parties for the day’s events. Holy cow, I just got word that protesters are regathering at the MPRP building again.

UPDATE: Our staff are trapped on the roof of the MPRP building. When they try to leave the premises, they are attacked and beaten. They have been unable to escape. We are trying to alert the crowds to allow our crew to leave.

COMMENT: It is alarming how many protests we received from government officials and the Mongolian CIA demanding the news coverage be shut down. There is clearly some discussion going on at high levels that part of this protest was fomented by Eagle TV.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Our policy on such coverage would be no different if it were MPRP protesters attacking the Democratic Party building. There is a great deal of pressure upon our management team to force our shut down. However, this would be a critical mistake for Mongolian democracy. Most stations did not provide coverage until long after Eagle TV began rolling live footage of the thousands in the street. Our competitor stations were calling our station manager to congratulate us on our coverage (including those who refused to do any coverage themselves). One competitor even provided dual coverage by running our video on their channel live. In addition, the world is now alerted to the situation in Mongolia. Video from AP, fed to CNN, BBC, and other outlets, was all Eagle TV video, with AP using Eagle TV as their base of operations for their coverage.

The attacks against Eagle TV are unjustified. Though today’s events are tragic, trying to cajole or force the shut down of media coverage through Eagle would be a major step backwards for this democracy. The move by certain officials and party members to pressure the shut down of coverage is a clear sign that even though Mongolia has “freedom of press” it is still fragile and suffers under the influence of those who desire to control all media for their own benefit. We therefore believe that the need for a completely independent channel such as Eagle TV is more critical than ever.

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