The Committee to Protect Journalists has released a ranking of the ten most-censored countries around the world. CPJ’s methodology measures censorship by use of “a variety of benchmarks,” including “the absence of privately owned or independent media, blocking of websites, restrictions on electronic recording and dissemination, license requirements to conduct journalism, restrictions on journalists’ movements, monitoring of journalists by authorities, jamming of foreign broadcasts, and blocking of foreign correspondents.” The organization will release its full annual report on Apr. 27.
Here are the ten worst violators of press freedom, according to the CPJ:
Despite much fanfare concerning the reopening of diplomatic channels between Washington and Havana, Cuba remains in the CPJ’s ten least-journalist-friendly countries. CPJ lauds recent improvements, including “the elimination of exit visas that had prohibited most foreign travel for decades,” but all print and broadcast media remain under control of the one-party government.
Pre-publication censorship ended in 2012, but Myanmar’s media industry is small and under intense scrutiny by the military-dominated government. A new law enacted in Mar. 2014 bans content that could be considered “insulting to religion, disturbing to the rule of law, or harmful to ethnic unity.” For example, journalists are forbidden from broaching the subject of Myanmar’s oppressed Muslim minority, the Rohingya.
The People’s Republic of China remains one of the top three jailers of journalists in the world. In more recent news, a number of foreign correspondents (most notably from The New York Times and Bloomberg News) had their visas delayed or denied in retribution for what Beijing perceives as unfavorable coverage.
Iran consistently ranks among the most prolific jailers of journalists in the world. Additionally, it has one of the toughest Internet censorship laws in existence, blocking ordinary Iranians from accessing millions of websites.
Privately-owned print or broadcast outlets are illegal in this Southeast Asian nation. A law enacted in 1999, still in effect today, requires that all media working in Vietnam serve as “mouthpieces” of the ruling party. Government authorities reportedly hold weekly meetings with newspaper editors to dictate which stories will run on front pages, and which stories will be suppressed.
The government in Baku frequently orders invasions of foreign-press and free-press advocacy organizations. Officials are also known to concoct false charges of tax evasion, or impose arbitrary evictions against journalists critical of the regime of president Ilham Aliyev. Bank accounts are frozen, assets are seized, and “debilitating lawsuits” are filed. Well-known investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova was arrested during a widely publicized 2014 crackdown on Azerbaijani journalists.
The Ethiopian government launched a systematic campaign of suppression against independent print publishers in the run-up to the 2015 elections, accusing six anti-establishment publications of promoting terrorism. There are no independent broadcasters in Ethiopia (though the US-based Ethiopian Satellite Television is occasionally permitted to air), and the country’s sole telecommunications company, state-owned Ethio Telecom, “routinely suspends critical news sites.”
3. Saudi Arabi
Amendments made to the kingdom’s press law in 2011 forbid the dissemination of any media “deemed to contravene sharia, impinge on state interests, promote foreign interests, harm public order or national security, or enable criminal activity.” The law also makes it possible for certain courts to hear “unchallenged testimony” against accused journalists in the absence of defense representation. Furthermore, the kingdom monitors YouTube content to suppress clips of Saudi women defying the notorious driving ban, which garnered international attention in 2013.
2. North Korea
Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency produces nearly all content for the country’s 12 national newspapers, 20 magazines, and various broadcasters. Ordinary people do not have access to the internet, and mobile phones are banned.
The tiny, East African country snagged the top spot this year—thanks in large part to the policies of president Isaias Afewerki, who has been in power since 1993. State-owned media is the only permitted media, with the last accredited foreign correspondent being expelled in 2007. The last privately owned media outfits were suspended indefinitely in 2001, and nearly all of their journalists were imprisoned. Most remain behind bars. “Eritrea has the most jailed journalists in Africa,” CPJ reports. “None of those arrested are taken to court, and the fear of arrest has forced dozens of journalists into exile.” Internet is only accessible through portals provided by the state-owned telecom giant EriTel.