Press Freedom: Eritrea, North Korea, Syria 'most censored countries'


A Syrian man reads the local 'Baath' newspaper in Damascus on April 12, 2012, as a UN-backed ceasefire went into effect. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shot dead a civilian in the central province of Hama, a monitoring group said, hours after a deadline to implement a ceasefire aimed to end 13 months of bloodshed.


Louai Beshara

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Eritrea, North Korea and Syria have topped a new list of the world's most censored countries.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists highlighted how domestic restrictions on media freedom "have broad implications for global geopolitical stability," in a report released Wednesday

In Eritrea, a Horn of Africa nation bordering long-time rival Ethiopia, only state news media are allowed to operate, and remain under strict government control. Internet access is affordable for only a select few citizens, and foreign journalists are barred from the country.

"Journalists are conscripted into their work and enjoy no editorial freedom; they are handed instructions on how to cover events," the CPJ report said. 

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North Korea, which moved down a spot on this year's list, remains an extraordinarily secretive country, with all domestic news content produced by the official Korean Central News Agency. Foreign reporters have limited access and face constant surveillance, although the Associated Press this year was allowed to open a bureau in Pyongyang.

The CPJ report also noted that censorship has increased dramatically in Syria in response to political unrest, with a blackout in place on independent news coverage for more than a year. The Syrian government has disabled means of communication, including mobile phones and the internet, in an attempt to prevent information from getting out.

The other most censored countries on the list are Iran, Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Belarus.

Myanmar moved from second to seventh in the rankings because, according to CPJ researchers, a number of imprisoned journalists have been released and some restrictions on reporting have been loosened for both domestic and foreign media. 

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The CPJ said it considered 15 factors in compiling the list, including the blocking of websites, restrictions on electronic recording and dissemination, the absence of privately owned or independent media, restrictions on journalist movements, jamming of foreign broadcasts and blocking of foreign correspondents.

“In the name of stability or development, these regimes suppress independent reporting, amplify propaganda, and use technology to control rather than empower their own citizens,” executive director Joel Simon said in a statement.

“Journalists are seen as a threat and often pay a high price for their reporting. But because the Internet and trade have made information global, domestic censorship affects people everywhere.”

The group said it also considered including the heavily censored countries of Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, China, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

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