5 Most Censored Countries
Print and electronic media in some countries are under heavy state control or influence. They allow a few privately owned outlets to operate but most of these are in the hands of regime loyalists. Libya lacks independent broadcasting and print media, which is an anachronism even by Middle Eastern standards. In Equatorial Guinea, there is one private broadcaster owned by the president’s son. In Burma, citizens are at risk of public arrest for listening to the BBC.
By any international standard, the actions of these governments are unacceptable and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the leaders of these most censored countries to join the free world in dropping such restrictive measures and allowing journalists to report the news and inform their citizens impartially.
Here are overviews of the most censored countries:
North Korea has combined the ideal of a traditional Confucianist social order with the Stalinist ideal of an authoritarian state to create the world’s deepest information vacuum. The government controls all domestic newspapers, television and radio. Television and radio receivers are locked to government-assigned frequencies and content is transmitted almost entirely by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). It provides daily inflammatory news about ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-Un and his official engagements. There is never any mention of the country’s severe famine or poverty. Each year, a limited number of foreign journalists are allowed restricted access and must be accompanied by ‘minders’ at all times.
The junta owns all the country’s daily radio and newspapers and the country’s three TV channels. The media dare not even hint at, let alone report on, anti-government protests. Burma’s few privately-owned publications must submit content to the Press Scrutiny Board for clearance before publication; censorship delays mean that none appear daily. In 2005, the junta took over Bagan Cybertech, Burma’s main satellite communications provider and internet. Citizens have been detained for listening to the BBC or Radio Free Asia in public. Foreign journalists’ entry visa requests are usually turned down except when the government wants to showcase a political event.
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has isolated the country from the rest of the world and created a cult of personality, declaring himself “Arkadag,” protector of the Turkmen. The state owns all domestic media and Berdimuhamedow’s administration controls them by censoring content and appointing editors. Niyazov personally gives his approval of the content on the front pages of major dailies, which always display his picture. In 2005, the state shut down all libraries except one, which contained the president’s books and banned the importation of foreign publications. The state media heap fulsome praise on Berdimuhamedow, ignoring key stories about unemployment, prostitution, AIDS, poverty, drugs and crime. A handful of foreign and local correspondents work abroad – primarily Russian–news agencies but their freedom to report is minimal.
Criticism of Obiang’s ruthless regime is not allowed in the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa. All broadcasting is state-owned except RTV-Asonga, the private television and radio network owned by the president’s son, Teodorino Obiang Nguema. A handful of private newspapers formally exist but rarely publish due to political and financial pressure. The exiled press freedom group ASOLPEGE-Libre says the only regular periodical is a pro-government magazine published in Spain and funded by advertising revenue from companies operating in Equatorial Guinea, ‘mainly North American oil companies’. The group says the government has imposed all private companies to pay for advertising spots in national broadcasting. It describes state broadcasters as “pure instruments of government at the service of a dictatorship dedicated solely and exclusively to political and ideological propaganda of the regime in power”. In 2005, the US State Department reported that sports publications and foreign celebrities were on sale. Foreign correspondents have been expelled without official explanation or refused visas.
Libyan media are the most strictly controlled in the Arab world. The government controls and owns all broadcasting and print media, an anachronism even by regional standards. The press scrupulously reflects the country’s policies and does not allow news or views critical of the government. Internet and satellite television are available, but the government blocks unwanted political websites. The internet is one of the few opportunities for independent writers and journalists, but the risks are incredibly high. Dayf al-Ghazal al-Shuhaibi, who wrote for London-based opposition websites, was found beheaded in Benghazi in 2005. No one was charged with the murder, which has sent an unerring message to potential critics. In addition, the Internet writer Abdel Razek al-Mansouri was imprisoned in retaliation for being critical of the government on the internet.
Let us know in the comment section whether we have missed other countries where the press is highly censored.