The Committee to Protect Journalists released an analysis yesterday, of what they consider the worlds top ten censored countries. CPJ said this report was released to observe World Press Freedom Day, which is today.
Below, I will list the top ten countries along with a brief excerpt taken from the report which describes some of the censorship for each and how it operates.
“Only state news media are allowed to operate in Eritrea, and they do so under the complete direction of Information Minister Ali Abdu. Journalists are conscripted into their work and enjoy no editorial freedom; they are handed instructionson how to cover events. Journalists suspected of sending information outside the country are thrown into prison without charge or trial and held for extended periods of time without access to family or a lawyer.”
2. North Korea
” Nearly all the content of North Korea’s 12 main newspapers, 20 periodicals, and broadcasters comes from the official Korean Central News Agency and focuses on the political leadership’s statements and supposed activities. Ruling elites have access to the World Wide Web, but the public is limited to a heavily monitored and censored network with no connections to the outside world. ”
” …the regime has imposed a blackout on independent news coverage, barring foreign reporters from entering and reporting freely, and detaining and attacking local journalists who try to cover protests. Numerous journalists have gone missing or been detained without charge, and many said they were tortured in custody.”
“Imprisoned journalists are subject to horrible conditions including solitary confinement, physical abuse, and torture; families of journalists are also intimidated and harassed in a bid to keep them silent. Iranian authorities maintain one of the world’s toughest Internet censorship regimes, blocking millions of websites, including news and social networking sites; using sophisticated techniques to detect interference with anti-censorship programs; and intimidating reporters via social networks.”
“Technically, some outlets are privately owned, but none are independent, as Obiang and his associates exert direct or indirect control. State mediado not provide international news coverage unless Obiang or another official travels abroad. Censors enforce rigid rules to ensure the regime is portrayed positively; journalists who don’t comply risk prison under criminal statutes including defamation. Security agents closely shadow foreign journalists and restrict photography or filming that documents poverty.”
“No independent media outlets are based in Uzbekistan. Independent journalists—mostly contributors to outlets outside the country—are subject to interrogation and prosecution under defamation charges or outdated statutes such as “insulting national traditions.” They and their families are harassed and smeared; some have seen sensitive personal information published by state media.”
“The government dominates radio and television with a steady stream of propaganda. Laws bar the ownership of a computer without a license and ban the dissemination or posting of unauthorized materials over the Internet. Prison sentences have been used to punish reporters working for exile-run media groups. Regulations imposed in 2011 banned the use of flash drives and voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) communication in Internet cafés.”
8. Saudi Arabia
“Regulations require government registration and approval of editors for any organization or individual conducting “electronic journalism” or “displaying audio and visual material” on websites, while criteria for approval are vaguely defined. No foreign or local journalists are granted access to the Eastern Province, where protesters have been calling for political reforms and greater rights for the Shiite minority since February 2011. Local news websites that have reported on the unrest have been shut down and their editors arrested. ”
“All authorized domestic news media are controlled by the Communist Party, which recognizes freedom of the press only “in accordance with the goals of the socialist society.” Internet service providers are obliged to block objectionable content. Independent journalists and bloggers all work on websites that are hosted overseas and updated through embassies or costly hotel connections.”
“…wide-ranging anti-press tactics have included politicized prosecution of journalists; imprisonments; travel bans against critical reporters; debilitating raids on independent newsrooms; wholesale confiscation of newspapers and seizure of reporting equipment; and failure to investigate the murdersof at least three journalists in the past 10 years. After the rigged election of 2010, he cracked down on what was left of the independent media, sending it underground.”
It is also important to note that CPJ recognizes a few runners-up, which include: Turkmenistan, China, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Sudan and Azerbaijan. You can read the entire report here.
After I read this report from CPJ, I found myself a bit exasperated. I thought to myself, this is the 21st century! How is this still taking place in the world? How is it that all over the world, people are continually stifled and kept in the dark? There is the Internet for crying out loud! Well, this report should help to remind all of us that our freedoms are always under attack. Basic human liberties, as we view them in the West, are consistently trampled on. It’s bad enough that there are governments out there that continue to murder citizens and completely oppress the people of their country. I’m not a Pollyanna, by any means. I think there will always be this kind of behavior. And I also think there will always be some battle for control of information, but to see it on this scale, today, in these modern times? Well, the lack of attention given to this is dis-heartening to say the least. If you are reading this, and you live in the United States, don’t think we are immune to this kind of behavior, albeit on a smaller scale. Read this.
I think we journalists, as well as the average citizen, should always remember this: Independent journalism needs to exist as a protective tool of democracy, freedoms and basic human rights. Something that is, in my opinion, under attack daily.
- Eritrea tops list of world’s worst press censors (guardian.co.uk)
- Journalism Group Cites Censorship in 10 Countries (abcnews.go.com)
- Journalism group cites censorship in 10 countries (heraldonline.com)
- Journalism group cites censorship in 10 countries (kansascity.com)
- Govt Vows to Lift Media Restrictions (irrawaddy.org)
- Burma Still Among World’s Worst for Press Freedom (irrawaddy.org)