Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Committee to Protect Journalists Identifies 10 Most Censored Countries: Cuba is 9th
The dictatorship in Cuba came in ninth place, but also at least three out of the four worse are close allies of the Castro brothers.
Leadership: President Isaias Afewerki, in power since 1993
How Censorship Works: Only state news media are allowed to operate in Eritrea, and they do so under the complete direction of Information Minister Ali Abdu. Journalists are conscripted into their work and enjoy no editorial freedom; they are handed instructionson how to cover events. Journalists suspected of sending information outside the country are thrown into prison without charge or trial and held for extended periods of time without access to family or a lawyer. The government expelled the last accredited foreign correspondent in 2007. All Internet service providers are required to connect to the World Wide Web through government-operated EriTel. While Eritrea's journalists in exile run many websites, Internet access is affordable for only a handful of citizens, and mobile Internet isn't available.
Lowlight: In 2011, Eritrea planned to introduce mobile Internet capability, which is popular throughout the developing world, where cellular towers are often built before Internet or land lines. But the government, fearful of the effect of the Arab Spring uprisings, abandoned the plan.
Click here for more on Eritrea.
2. North Korea
Leadership: Kim Jong Un, who took over when his father Kim Jong Il died in December 2011. His grandfather, Kim Il Sung, ruled North Korea from 1948 until his death in 1994.
How Censorship Works: Nearly all the content of North Korea's 12 main newspapers, 20 periodicals, and broadcasters comes from the official Korean Central News Agency and focuses on the political leadership's statements and supposed activities. Ruling elites have access to the World Wide Web, but the public is limited to a heavily monitored and censored network with no connections to the outside world. While The Associated Press opened a Pyongyang bureau in January 2012 staffed with North Koreans, the AP wasn't granted its own Internet connection and the correspondents have no secure line of communication. A Japan-based media support group, Asiapress, has been giving North Korean volunteers journalism training and video cameras to record daily life in the North. Downloaded onto DVDs or memory sticks, the images are smuggled across the porous border with China and then sent to Japan for broader distribution. Only small numbers of foreign journalists are generally allowed limited access to the country each year, and they must be accompanied everywhere by minders.
Lowlight: KCNA's official version of Kim Jong Il's death said he died on December 19, 2011, of heart failure while traveling by train because of a "great mental and physical strain" during a "high-intensity field inspection." Subsequent analysis of official pronouncements indicates that, wherever he was, Kim most likely died on December 17, and the news was delayed to allow officials to sort out problems of succession.
Click here for more on North Korea.
Leadership: President Bashar al-Assad, who took over upon his father's death in 2000
How Censorship Works: Since demonstrators began calling for Assad's ouster in March 2011, the regime has imposed a blackout on independent news coverage, barring foreign reporters from entering and reporting freely, and detaining and attacking local journalists who try to cover protests. Numerous journalists have gone missing or been detained without charge, and many said they were tortured in custody. International media have relied heavily on footage shot by citizen journalists in very dangerous conditions. At least nine journalists have been killed on duty since November 2011, six in circumstances in which government culpability is suspected. In its campaign to silence media coverage, the government disabled mobile phones, landlines, electricity, and the Internet. Authorities have routinely extracted passwords of social media sites from journalists through beatings and torture. The pro-government online group the Syrian Electronic Army has frequently hacked websites to post pro-regime material, and the government has been implicated in malware attacks targeted at those reporting on the crisis.
Lowlight: Ferzat Jarban was the first journalist killed for his work in Syria since CPJ began documenting deaths two decades ago. A local videographer documenting protests and the government's violent crackdown in his hometown of Al-Qusayr in Homs, his footage showed shocking images of dead women and children. Jarban was last seen being arrested before his body turned up bearing signs of mutilation, with one eye gouged out.
Click here for more on Syria.
Leadership: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been supreme leader since 1989. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first won the presidency in 2005.
How Censorship Works: The government uses mass imprisonment of journalists as a means of silencing dissent and quashing critical news coverage. Since 2009, a once-robust reformist media has been battered by a government onslaught that has included the banning of publications and the mass arrests and imprisonments of journalists on antistate charges. Imprisoned journalists are subject to horrible conditions including solitary confinement, physical abuse, and torture; families of journalists are also intimidated and harassed in a bid to keep them silent. Iranian authorities maintain one of the world's toughest Internet censorship regimes, blocking millions of websites, including news and social networking sites; using sophisticated techniques to detect interference with anti-censorship programs; and intimidating reporters via social networks. The regime also frequently jams satellite signals, particularly that of the BBC Persian-language service.
Lowlight: The regime has particularly targeted the BBC, especially since the 2009 disputed presidential elections, when the BBC Persian-language service extensively covered protesters describing abuse by security forces. Relatives and friends of BBC staff members have been arrested, questioned, or intimidated. Tehran has jammed BBC satellite signals, and the broadcaster reported a "sophisticated cyber-attack" on its email and Internet services that coincided with efforts to jam its satellite feeds into Iran.
Click here for more on Iran.
Leadership: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in power since a 1979 coup
How Censorship Works: Obiang's government tightly controls all news and information over national airwaves. Technically, some outlets are privately owned, but none are independent, as Obiang and his associates exert direct or indirect control. State mediado not provide international news coverage unless Obiang or another official travels abroad. Censors enforce rigid rules to ensure the regime is portrayed positively; journalists who don't comply risk prison under criminal statutes including defamation. Security agents closely shadow foreign journalists and restrict photography or filming that documents poverty. The government paid three Washington-based public relations firms a total of US$1.2 million between April and October 2010 to produce positive news about Equatorial Guinea, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Lowlight: At the outbreak of the Arab Spring, the government banned state media from mentioning on air any of the North African or Middle Eastern countries involved. In March 2011, authorities detained and suspended a state radio announcer for a mere reference to a "leader of the Libyan revolution."
Click here for more on Equatorial Guinea.
Leadership: President Islam Karimov, first elected in 1991
How Censorship Works: No independent media outlets are based in Uzbekistan. Independent journalists—mostly contributors to outlets outside the country—are subject to interrogation and prosecution under defamation charges or outdated statutes such as "insulting national traditions." They and their families are harassed and smeared; some have seen sensitive personal information published by state media. MuhammadBekjanov and Yusuf Ruzimuradov of the opposition newspaper Erk have been imprisonedlonger than any other jailed journalists in the world, CPJ research shows. Internet access to independent news websites and online broadcasters is blocked, as are some keywords and topics on individual Web pages. Foreign journalists are denied visas and accreditation.
Lowlight: Karimov's own nephew, the critical independent journalist Dzhamshid Karimov, vanished in 2006 after visiting his mother in the hospital. His friends eventually discovered that he was being held against his will in a psychiatric clinic, where he remained captive until November 2011.
Click here for more on Uzbekistan.
Leadership: President Thein Sein, a former general who assumed office in a 2011 election that heavily favored military-backed candidates
How Censorship Works: Although Burma has transitioned from military to civilian government, released journalists among hundreds of political prisoners, and promised more reforms, its vast censorship structure remains in place. All privately run news publications in Burma are forced to publish weekly rather than daily due to stifling prepublication censorship requirements. The government's Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) censors news that could reflect poorly on the military or the government it backs, and imposes a complete blackout on reporting of the armed conflict with ethnic Kachin rebels in the remote north. The government dominates radio and television with a steady stream of propaganda. Laws bar the ownership of a computer without a license and ban the dissemination or posting of unauthorized materials over the Internet. Prison sentences have been used to punish reporters working for exile-run media groups. Regulations imposed in 2011 banned the use of flash drives and voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) communication in Internet cafés. Local reporters with international agencies are subject to constant police surveillance; others only publish under pseudonyms to prevent possible reprisals. Foreign reporters are regularly denied journalist visas unless the government aims to showcase a state-sponsored event. Those discovered reporting on tourism visas are expelled.
Lowlight: In February 2012, the PSRD banned a commentary written by journalist Ludu Sein Win about a media conference where Ministry of Information officials discussed a proposed new media law that would allow more press freedom—including an end to prepublication censorship. Sein Win wrote tongue-in-cheek that those who attended the conference were "helping to make the rope to hang themselves." The banned article was later published by the exile-run Irrawaddy.
Click here for more on Burma.
Leadership: King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, who succeeded his half-brother, King Fahd, in 2005
How Censorship Works: The Saudi kingdom's media law is highly restrictive and vaguely worded, with penalties severe and arbitrary. Authorities have the right to appoint and fire senior editors in traditional media at will; after the emergence of a vibrant, unregulated online news sector, they introduced similar restrictions on the Internet. Regulations require government registration and approval of editors for any organization or individual conducting "electronic journalism" or "displaying audio and visual material" on websites, while criteria for approval are vaguely defined. No foreign or local journalists are granted access to the Eastern Province, where protesters have been calling for political reforms and greater rights for the Shiite minority since February 2011. Local news websites that have reported on the unrest have been shut down and their editors arrested. Foreign news about events outside Saudi Arabia is available, but international news outlets operating inside its borders limit their reporting in order to maintain accreditation.
Lowlights: Saudi authorities expelled Riyadh-based Reuters correspondent Ulf Laessingin March 2011, angered by his coverage of political unrest. Laessing wrote: "State security agents knocked at dawn at my hotel room after I had covered Shiite protests in the Eastern Province. A week later, the government withdrew my accreditation."
Click here for more on Saudi Arabia.
Leadership: President Raúl Castro, who took over from his brother, Fidel Castro, in 2008; the country has been a one-party communist state since Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution
How Censorship Works: All authorized domestic news media are controlled by the Communist Party, which recognizes freedom of the press only "in accordance with the goals of the socialist society." Internet service providers are obliged to block objectionable content. Independent journalists and bloggers all work on websites that are hosted overseas and updated through embassies or costly hotel connections. Although the last of the 29 independent journalists imprisoned in the 2003 Black Spring crackdown was released in April 2011, the government continues to persecute critical journalists with arbitrary arrests, short-term detentions, beatings, surveillance, and smear campaigns on state media and on the Internet. Government supporters sometimes gather outside the homes of critical journalists to intimidate them. Officials grant visas to foreign journalists selectively.
Lowlight: Prominent critical blogger Yoani Sánchez was refused a visa to leave the country in February for the 19th time, she said. Sánchez has been targeted in the past with smear campaigns, cyber-attacks on her blog, and assault.
Click here for more on Cuba.
Leadership: President Aleksandr Lukashenko, in office since 1994
How Censorship Works: Lukashenko's wide-ranging anti-press tactics have included politicized prosecution of journalists; imprisonments; travel bans against critical reporters; debilitating raids on independent newsrooms; wholesale confiscation of newspapers and seizure of reporting equipment; and failure to investigate the murdersof at least three journalists in the past 10 years. After the rigged election of 2010, hecracked down on what was left of the independent media, sending it underground. Working as a journalist without government-issued accreditation is prohibited; television is state-owned or state-controlled. In 2010, Lukashenko signed a law to censor the Internet, created an agency to implement the law, and placed his own son to head it. Shortly after it was created, the agency blacklisted independent and opposition websites. Public access to the Internet requires a government-issued ID, which allows the KGB to monitor users. At least one opposition website has been the target ofhacking attacks, including one in which a password obtained via malware was used to insert a false news story about an opposition politician.
Lowlight: Following the December 2010 presidential vote, Lukashenko imprisoned prominent independent journalists Irina Khalip and Natalya Radina on fabricated charges in retaliation for reporting on post-election protests. Khalip was later released from prison under heavy restrictions, while Radina was forced to flee Belarus to avoid a repeated incarceration.
Click here for more on Belarus.