In 1997, there were 25,000 mainline telephones in use with an additional 4,915 cellular phones throughout the country. Beginning in 1992 telephone owners were able to direct dial internationally, and private facsimile machines were permitted.
All communications, including the radio network, are operated by the government. Regular radio broadcasts were begun from Vientiane in 1968 and are now carried by Lao National Radio. Most broadcasts are in Lao, but government news broadcasts are also in English, French, and other languages. Domestic television service from Lao National TV began in 1983; in addition, programs are available by satellite from the former USSR, and it is possible to pick up Thai broadcasts. As of 1999 there were 9 AM and 4 FM radio stations and 4 television stations. In 2000, there were 148 radios and 10 television sets for every 1,000 people. In 2001, there were 6,000 Internet subscribers served by one service provider.
The press is government-controlled. The sole news agency is the Laos News Agency; the only foreign news bureaus are those of the former USSR and Vietnam. As of 2002, there were two daily newspapers, Vientiane Mai ( New Vientiane ), with a circulation of 2,500; and Khao San Pathet Lao ( Laos Newsletter, published in French and English as well as Lao), with a circulation of 1,200. Pasason ( The People ) is a monthly publication with a 2002 circulation of 28,000. The Vientiane Times , published in English is available twice a week.
Although there are constitutional provisions for freedom of speech and the press, the government is said to exert broad control over the exercise of these rights. All domestically produced newspapers, radio, and television are controlled by the Ministry of Information, which reacts harshly to expressions of political dissent.