ICE blogs

April 24, 2015

Eritrea ‘most censored country in world’

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 12:36 pm

Eritrea and North Korea are the most censored countries worldwide, according to a new survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists. The survey is based on research into the use of tactics ranging from imprisonment and repressive laws to harassment of journalists and restrictions on internet access.

In Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki has crushed independent journalism, producing a media climate so oppressive that even reporters for state-run news outlets live in constant fear of arrest or flee into exile. Eritrea is Africa’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 23 behind bars - none of them having been tried in court or even charged with a crime. Fewer than 1 per cent of the population goes online, according to UN International Telecommunication Union figures. Eritrea also has the lowest figure globally of cell phone users, with just 5.6 per cent of the population owning one.

In North Korea, where just 9.7 per cent of the population has cell phones, the state has such a tight grip on the news agenda that newsreel was re-edited recently to remove leader Kim Jong Un’s disgraced uncle from the archives after his execution.

Seven of the ten most censored countries – Eritrea, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Iran, China and Myanmar – are also among the top ten worst jailers of journalists worldwide, according to CPJ’s annual prison census. More than half of the journalists imprisoned globally are charged with anti-state crimes, including in China, the world’s worst jailer and the eighth most censored country. Of the 44 journalists imprisoned – the largest figure for China since CPJ began its annual census in 1990 – 29 were held on anti-state charges. Other countries that use the charge to crush critical voices include Saudi Arabia (third most censored), where the ruling monarchy, not satisfied with silencing domestic dissent, teamed up with other governments in the Gulf Cooperation Council to ensure that criticism of leadership in any member state is dealt with severely.

In Ethiopia – number four on CPJ’s most censored list – the threat of imprisonment has contributed to a steep increase in the number of journalist exiles. Amid a crackdown on bloggers and independent publications in 2014, more than 30 journalists were forced to flee. Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law, which criminalises any reporting deemed to ‘encourage’ or ‘provide moral support’ to banned groups, has been levied against many of the 17 journalists jailed there. Vietnam (sixth most censored) uses a vague law against ‘abusing democratic freedom’ to jail bloggers, and Myanmar (ninth most censored) relies on its 1923 Official Secrets Act to prevent critical reporting on its military.
In Cuba (tenth most censored), the internet is available to only a small portion of the population, despite outside investment to bring the country online.

The list of most censored countries addresses only those where the government tightly controls the media. In some countries, notably Syria, conditions are extremely dangerous and journalists have been abducted, held captive, and killed, some by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad but also by militant groups such as the Islamic State.

• For full report see https://cpj.org/2015/04/10-most-censored-countries.php.

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