UNITED NATIONS - The small African nation of Eritrea tops even North Korea in its restrictions on the media, a new global report says.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists issued its annual list of the world’s top 10 most censored countries on Tuesday.
Here’s the rest of the list: Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Iran, China, Myanmar and Cuba.
How nations restrict Internet access is an important factor in the report. Eritrea allows only dial-up access, and North Korea allows Internet access to a small number of elite. And Eritrea has the world’s smallest percentage of citizens with mobile phones, at 5 percent.
The report says 44 journalists are imprisoned in China, more than any other country. That’s the highest number since the journalism group started keeping track a quarter-century ago.
Excerpts about the top 10 from the report:
“Only state media is allowed to disseminate news; the last accredited international correspondent was expelled in 2007. Even those working for the heavily censored state press live in constant fear of arrest for any report perceived as critical to the ruling party, or on suspicion that they leaked information outside the country. . . . Less than 1 percent of the population goes online.”
“Nearly all the content of North Korea’s 12 main newspapers, 20 periodicals and broadcasters comes from the official Korean Central News Agency, which focuses on the political leadership’s statements and activities. . . . North Koreans looking for independent information have turned to bootlegged foreign TV and radio signals and smuggled foreign DVDs, particularly along the porous border with China.”
“The Saudi government has progressively intensified legal repression since the Arab Spring. Amendments to the press law in 2011 punished the publication of any materials deemed to contravene Shariah law, impinge on state interests, promote foreign interests, harm public order or national security, or enable criminal activity. . . . Saudi Arabia also used its regional influence in the Gulf Cooperation Council to pass restrictions that prevent media in member states from criticizing the leadership of other member states.”
“As Ethiopia prepared for its May 2015 elections, the state systematically cracked down on the country’s remaining independent publications, through the arrests of journalists and intimidation of printing and distribution companies. . . . The state-controlled telecommunications company Ethio Telecom is the sole Internet provider and routinely suspends critical news websites.”
“The main sources of information in Azerbaijan are broadcasters, which are owned and controlled by the state or its proxies. International broadcasters are barred or their satellite signals are jammed. . . . Online speech is subject to self-censorship because of a criminal defamation law that carries a six-month prison sentence.”
“The Central Propaganda Department holds mandatory weekly meetings with local newspaper, radio and TV editors to hand down directives on which topics should be emphasized or censored in their news coverage. . . . Independent bloggers who report on sensitive issues have faced persecution through street-level attacks, arbitrary arrests, surveillance, and harsh prison sentences for anti-state charges.”
“The government uses mass and arbitrary detention as a means of silencing dissent and forcing journalists into exile. . . . Iranian authorities maintain one of the toughest Internet censorship regimes in the world, blocking millions of websites, including news and social networking sites. They are suspected of using sophisticated techniques, such as setting up fake versions of popular websites and search engines, and the regime frequently jams satellite signals.”
“Document 9, a secret white paper dated April 22, 2014, which was widely leaked online and to the international press, included the directive to ‘combat seven political perils’ and reject the concept of ‘universal values’ and the promotion of ‘the West’s view of media.’ Document 9 made it clear that the role of the media is to support the party’s unilateral rule.”
“The Printers and Publishers Registration Law, enacted in March 2014, bans news that could be considered insulting to religion, disturbing to the rule of law, or harmful to ethnic unity.”
“Cuba continues to have the most restricted climate for press freedom in the Americas. The print and broadcast media are wholly controlled by the one-party Communist state … Independent journalists and bloggers who work online use websites that are hosted overseas and must go to foreign embassies or hotels to upload content and get an unfiltered connection to the Internet. … Most Cubans do not have Internet at home.”
The report also takes note of “four heavily censored nations that nearly made the list:” Belarus, Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. It says each country has little or no independent media.