In Depth

World’s ten most censored countries revealed

Tourist destinations Cuba and Vietnam feature on the list

Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan are the three most censored countries in the world, according to a new report.

The investigation by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found that under these regimes, the media “serves as a mouthpiece of the state, and any independent journalism is conducted from exile”.

“The few foreign journalists permitted to enter are closely monitored,” adds the US-based media watchdog.

The findings are based on an analysis of what the report authors call the “blunt tactics” used by some governments to restrict free speech and freedom of the press, such as restricting internet and social media access. Other methods include “harassment and arbitrary detention, as well as sophisticated surveillance and targeted hacking”, they add. 

The CPJ notes that while “conditions for journalists and press freedom in states such as Syria, Yemen, and Somalia” are “extremely difficult”, these restrictions are “not necessarily attributable solely to government censorship”.

But the committee makes no such allowances for other countries including China, Vietnam, and Iran, nor for Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has attracted global criticism over its lack of transparency in the investigation into the 2018 killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

A UN report said the murder was a “premeditated execution” masterminded by the Saudi government and called for an investigation into the alleged involvement of the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The CPJ rankings are also based on less extreme censorship measures overseen by regimes, says Al Jazeera. These include restrictions on privately owned or independent media; criminal defamation laws; restrictions on the dissemination of so-called false news; and the blocking of websites.

Joel Simon, the watchdog’s executive director, said: “The internet was supposed to make censorship obsolete, but that hasn’t happened. 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.” 

The ten most censored countries are:
  1. Eritrea
  2. North Korea
  3. Turkmenistan
  4. Saudi Arabia
  5. China
  6. Vietnam
  7. Iran
  8. Equatorial Guinea
  9. Belarus
  10. Cuba

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