April 21, 2015

On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists released a report ranking the “10 Most Censored Countries.” This year, Eritrea ranked No. 1. and Cuba ranked in the tenth spot. The report, which used measurements on Internet restrictions, the presence of independent media and license requirements for journalists, among others, found that similar censorship tactics are used among the countries.

The tactics used by Eritrea and North Korea are mirrored to varying degrees in other heavily censored countries. To keep their grip on power, repressive regimes use a combination of media monopoly, harassment, spying, threats of journalist imprisonment, and restriction of journalists’ entry into or movements within their countries.

Imprisonment is the most effective form of intimidation and harassment used against journalists. Seven of the 10 most censored countries—Eritrea, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Iran, China, and Burma—are also among the top 10 worst jailers of journalists worldwide, according to CPJ’s annual prison census.

You can read the full report here. It includes details on how each ranked country imposes censorship as well as some examples. Many of the following countries are also ranked in CPJ’s list of the worst jailers of journalists. Here are this year rankings:

10. Cuba:

From the report:

…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, which has been in power for more than half a century and, by law, must be “in accordance with the goals of the socialist society.” Although the Internet has opened up some space for critical reporting, service providers are ordered to block objectionable content.

Last December, Reporters Without Borders noted Cuba’s jailed journalists and restrictions on press freedoms. Cuba ranks 169 of 180 on Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

9. Burma:

From the report:

Despite an end to more than four decades of pre-publication censorship in 2012, Burma’s media remains tightly controlled. 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. Publications must be registered under the law, and those found in violation of its vague provisions risk de-registration

In a 2014 report, CPJ reported that press freedoms “deteriorated in 2014, with at least 10 journalists imprisoned on anti-state charges.”

8. China:

From the report:

For more than a decade, China has been among the top three jailers of journalists in the world, a distinction that it is unlikely to lose any time soon.

In March, CPJ’s Bob Dietz wrote about “How China uses J-visas to punish international media for critical coverage.” China ranks 176 of 180 on Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index. It ranked in the top spot in CPJ’s report on countries that jail journalists.

7. Iran:

From the report:

The government uses mass and arbitrary detention as a means of silencing dissent and forcing journalists into exile. Iran became the world’s leading jailer of journalists in 2009 and has ranked among the world’s worst jailers of the press every year since. Iranian authorities maintain one of the toughest Internet censorship regimes in the world, blocking millions of websites, including news and social networking sites.

Iran has made the news recently with the continued imprisonment and Monday’s espionage charges against The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. Iran ranks 173 of 180 on Reporters Without Borders 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

6. Vietnam:

From the report:

Vietnam’s Communist Party–run government allows no privately held print or broadcast outlets. Under the 1999 Media Law (Article 1, Chapter 1), all media working in Vietnam must serve as “the mouthpiece of Party organizations.” 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.

Vietnam ranks 175 out of 180 on Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

5. Azerbaijan:

From the report:

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.

Azerbaijan ranks 162 of 180 in Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

4. Ethiopia:

From the report:

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. Filing lawsuits against editors and forcing publishers to cease production have left only a handful of independent publications in a country of more than 90 million people.

From CPJ’s list of countries that jail journalists, “A state crackdown on independent publications and bloggers in Ethiopia this year more than doubled the number of journalists imprisoned to 17 from seven the previous year, and prompted several journalists to flee into exile, according to CPJ research.” Ethiopia ranks 142 of 180 on Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

3. Saudi Arabia:

From the report:

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 Sharia law, impinge on state interests, promote foreign interests, harm public order or national security, or enable criminal activity.

Saudi Arabia ranks 164 of 180 in Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

2. North Korea:

From the report:

Article 53 of the country’s constitution calls for freedom of the press, but even with an Associated Press bureau—staffed by North Koreans and located in the Pyongyang headquarters of the state-run Korean Central News Agency—and a small foreign press corps from politically sympathetic countries, access to independent news sources is extremely limited.

North Korea ranks 179 of 180 on Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

1. Eritrea:

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. The last privately owned media outlets were suspended and their journalists jailed in 2001.

Eritrea was ranked third in CPJ’s list of the worst jailers of journalists. It ranks 180 out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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