Eritrea is the world’s most censored country, according to a new report by a media watchdog which also cites extreme measures taken by authorities in nine other countries, including North Korea, China and Saudi Arabia.
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Tuesday that the worst three countries for press censorship – Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan – use the media “as a mouthpiece of the state, and independent journalism is conducted from exile”.
Other countries on the top 10 list “use a combination of blunt tactics like harassment and arbitrary detention as well as sophisticated surveillance and targeted hacking to silence the independent press,” the report said.
Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam and Iran – ranked fourth to seventh, respectively – were cited in the CPJ report for “jailing and harassing journalists and their families, while also engaging in digital monitoring and censorship of the internet and social media.”
Equatorial Guinea, Belarus and Cuba were also named in the CPJ’s 10 most censored list. The watchdog noted that conditions for journalists and press freedom in war-ravaged countries such as Syria and Yemen are “extremely difficult, but not necessarily attributable solely to government censorship”.
The rankings were based on factors including restrictions on privately-owned or independent media; criminal defamation laws; restrictions on the dissemination of false news; blocking of websites; surveillance of journalists by authorities; license requirements for media; and targeted hacking or trolling.
“The internet was supposed to make censorship obsolete, but that hasn’t happened,” Joel Simon, CPJ executive director, said in a statement.
“Many of the world’s most censored countries are highly wired, with active online communities. These governments combine old-style brutality with new technology, often purchased from Western companies, to stifle dissent and control the media,” he said.