Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea have made it on to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ list of most-censored countries in the world. The report says that in the top three countries – Eritrea, North Korea, and Turkmenistan – the media serves as a mouthpiece of the state, and any independent journalism is conducted from exile.
Eritrea has the world’s highest levels of censorship and the most active government in jailing reporters and stifling newspapers, radio and television, a study by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) watchdog says.
The authoritarian Horn of Africa nation, which shuttered all independent media in 2001 and currently has some 16 journalists behind bars, is followed by North Korea and Turkmenistan as the world’s worst places to work as a reporter, the CPJ says.
“The internet was supposed to make censorship obsolete, but that hasn’t happened,” the group’s executive director Joel Simon said in a statement upon releasing the annual report Tuesday.
In Eritrea, the government controls most broadcast outlets; internet connections are hard to find, and foreign radio signals are jammed.Eritrean law says reporters must promote “national objectives”. Journalists at the country’s state-run media outlets “toe the government’s editorial line for fear of retaliation”, the CPJ said in a nine-page report.
“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.
“Other countries on the list of the 10 worst regimes for media “use a combination of blunt tactics like harassment and arbitrary detention as well as sophisticated surveillance and targeted hacking to silence the independent press,” the report said.
Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, and Iran were cited for “jailing and harassing journalists and their families, while also engaging in digital monitoring and censorship of the internet and social media,” the group said.
It noted that in other countries including war-ravaged nations such as Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, conditions for the media are “extremely difficult, but not necessarily attributable solely to government censorship.
“CPJ researchers noted that journalists struggled with war and instability in such countries as Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia, but said that these issues were “not necessarily attributable solely to government censorship”.
The CPJ media freedom ranking is similar to the list compiled by Reporters Without Borders, another watchdog, which also shames Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan as the world’s worst three countries for independent journalism.
The rankings were based on factors including restrictions on privately owned or independent media; criminal defamation laws; restrictions on the dissemination of false news; blocking of websites; surveillance of journalists by authorities; license requirements for media; and targeted hacking or trolling.