Brunei Darussalam





Basic Data

Brunei Darussalam

Official Country Name: Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Darussalam

Region (Map name): Southeast Asia
Population: 336,376
Language(s): Malay, English, Chinese
Literacy rate: 88.2%

Brunei Darussalam, a tiny country situated on the northwest corner of the island of Borneo, has a media and press system that is highly censored and uniform, with little diversity or freedom.

The primary English-language daily newspaper is the Borneo Bulletin. The Malay-language newspaper is the Media Permata. The country also has one independent English-language daily, the News Express, and an online news service, Brunei Direct. The country has only one television station, state-controlled Television Brunei, with broadcasts in the Brunei's official language, Malay, as well as English. The country's one radio station, state-controlled Radio Television Brunei, broadcasts in Malay, English, Mandarin Chinese, and Gurkhali. Foreign broadcasts can be accessed through a cable network, lending diversity to the population's information access.

Brunei's press, although not considered free by Western standards, is what the government describes as a "socially responsible Press," which balances the rights of the individual and those of society. The authoritarian government, led since 1967 by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, rejects a press that is too liberal and free to print caustic criticism of its political leaders. The government is considered a Malay Muslim Monarchy and has maintained its independence, first by rejecting in 1963 the option of joining the Malaysian Federation (the country remained a British dependency), then by separating from the British monarchy in 1984, thanks to its newfound wealth of oil and gas deposits.

The country's population is well educated, well read, and enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world, with an average annual per-capita income of US $24,620. Brunei citizens pay no income taxes and enjoy free medical care and education.

Although newspapers and foreign media are censored, the government has loosened control somewhat in the early twenty-first century. However, religious leaders in Brunei have expressed their concern over less censorship because they believe the society will fall into moral decay, according the BBC News.

Bibliography

"Committee to Protect Journalists Statement," 25 Sept. 2001. Available from http://www.brudirect.com

"Country Profile: Brunei." BBC News, 26 Feb. 2002.

"Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Brunei." Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State. 4 March 2001.

"Global Press Freedom Declines." Freedom House, 29 April 2000. Available from http://www.freedomhouse.org

Hesseldahl, Arik. "Tough Times in Brunei." Forbes, 14 Sept. 2000.

"The World's Largest Prison for Journalists—Annual Report Asia 2002." Reporters Without Borders, 25 April 2002. Available from http://www.rsf.fr

Carol Marshall

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