10 Most Censored Countries – CPJ

Repressive governments use sophisticated digital censorship and surveillance alongside more traditional methods to silence independent media. A special report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Eritrea is the world's most censored country, according to a list compiled

Repressive governments use sophisticated digital censorship and surveillance alongside more traditional methods to silence independent media. A special report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Eritrea is the world’s most censored country, according to a list compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists. The list is based on CPJ’s research into the use of tactics ranging from imprisonment and repressive laws to surveillance of journalists and restrictions on internet and social media access.

Under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to seek and receive news and express opinions. These 10 countries flout the international standard by banning or severely restricting independent media and intimidating journalists into silence with imprisonment, digital and physical surveillance, and other forms of harassment. Self-censorship is pervasive.

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. The few foreign journalists permitted to enter are closely monitored.

Other countries on the list use a combination of blunt tactics like harassment and arbitrary detention as well as sophisticated surveillance and targeted hacking to silence the independent press. Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, and Iran are especially adept at practicing these two brands of censorship: jailing and harassing journalists and their families, while also engaging in digital monitoring and censorship of the internet and social media.

The list addresses only those countries where the government tightly controls the media. The conditions for journalists and press freedom in states such as SyriaYemen, and Somalia are also extremely difficult, but not necessarily attributable solely to government censorship. Rather, factors like violent conflict, insufficient infrastructure, and the role of non-state actors create conditions that are dangerous for the press.

1. Eritrea

Leadership: President Isaias Afewerki, in power since 1993.

How censorship works: The government shut down all independent media in 2001. Eritrea is the worst jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa, with at least 16 journalists behind bars as of December 1, 2018; most have been imprisoned since the 2001 crackdown, and none received a trial. According to freedom of expression group Article 19, the 1996 press law includes a requirement that the media must promote “national objectives.” The state retains a legal monopoly of broadcast media, and journalists for the state media toe the government’s editorial line for fear of retaliation. Alternative sources of information such as the internet or satellite broadcasts of radio stations in exile are restricted through occasional signal jams and by the poor quality of the government-controlled internet, according to DW Akademie. Internet penetration is extremely low, at just over 1% of the population, according to the U.N. International Telecommunication Union. Users are forced to visit internet cafes, where they are easily monitored. A March 2019 report by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa suggests that the authoritarian state is so “brutal or commanding” as to “render ordering overt internet disruptions unnecessary.” However, on May 15, 2019, the BBC reported a social media shutdown in Eritrea, ahead of the country’s Independence Day celebrations. With the opening of the border with Ethiopia in mid-2018, some foreign journalists received special accreditation to visit Eritrea, according to The Economist, but access was tightly controlled.

Lowlight: As many as seven journalists may have perished in custody, according to reports that CPJ has not been able to confirm due to the climate of fear and tight state control. The government has refused all requests to provide concrete information on the fate of imprisoned journalists. In June 2019, more than 100 leading African journalists, scholars, and rights activists wrote an open letter to Afewerki, asking to visit long-imprisoned journalists and activists; this request was soundly rejected, and deemed “inappropriate” by Eritrea’s Ministry of Information.

Read More: 10 Most Censored Countries – CPJ

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12 COMMENTS
  • k.tewolde September 11, 2019

    After 28 years of ‘independence’ it is quite a feat,an astounding accomplishment,a paradox way of putting the less known nation on the map.Is this the Eritrea we knew,or fought for? are we related to this Eritrea which is perched on the top Ten of journalist phobic and human right abusing champions? The mole,the impostor,the Trojan Horse as they call him…is teaching us in his own way, that the Eritrea we aspired and dreamed of is a mirage.

  • Aba thimmer September 11, 2019

    K. Tewolde,what a great ability inputting ability you have makes me wonder..I know you are a doctor, surgeon or probably anesthesiologist hypnosasere with anti dot caliber. Honestly too polite politician.

    • k.tewolde September 11, 2019

      Aba thimmer,it is a grieving heart talking,we lost big in every sense of the word.it doesn’t matter if I made it on the Forbes richest people with a lucrative career,nothing will replace what the termites gnawed away from us, a large piece of us is left there with those we left behind,that is what is pouring into this dialogue box.Thanks for the compliment.

  • Asmara Eritrea September 11, 2019

    Well of course – Eritrea comes top of the league hands down in everything that is bad, repressive and horrific. No question about that!

    But it is nonsense to blame an ageing, mad dictator for the people’s predicament. I would blame the Eritrean people themselves and inclined to say they are getting what they perhaps deserve. If they did not deserve what they are getting, they would have had Isaias’ head on a plate by now.

    “Freedom is never free”. Eritrea was liberated from Ethiopian repression through sweat and blood. Unless we resort to that, the beast is going to continue to torture and abuse our people. The solution to our nightmare is in our hands, not in the psychopath, Isaias’. So, for once let’s stop blaming Isaias and blame ourselves. We Eritreans have refined the art of fleeing our homeland whilst others stay on and fight for their motherland.

    Eritrea forever, death to dictatorship.

  • k.tewolde September 11, 2019

    ‘But it is nonsense to blame an ageing, mad dictator for the people’s predicament.’ quips A.E.,then closes his/her post with ‘Eritrea forever, death to dictatorship’,well,this aging dictator was not born a senior citizen,at one time when he started dictating he was young nimble and alluring to the point he hypnotized a lot of people women and men alike,do the people have a lot to do with their own demise?,absolutely! however am I going to spare him and his cronies because my poor and ignorant people got duped by the slick one,Abedden! ‘We Eritreans have refined the art of fleeing our homeland..’ agree,since the beginning of time,while I was heading to the field in 1974/75 people were heading abroad and people before them,whose foot print do you think this young generation is following- NAY AYATATU,only this time the lawless regime exploits it as a foreign investment at any cost hoping for a return, how bottom to the cesspool pit can you go.A.E. I am not picking on you,I just want the record straight.

  • Salim Negash September 12, 2019

    What is the difference between censorship and freedom of press? Eritrea for sure has zero freedom of press, we do not need captain obvious aka CPJ to tell us what we already know. However, it censors nobody (as far as I can tell) nor does it have the the capacity or the technological know-how. Here is what brought me to that conclusion from my visits to Eritrea:

    1) The satellite channels are never jammed, people watch all sorts of channels including ATV. If there is one headache for the government recently, it is ATV. If they had the means, they would have jammed it relentlessly even as it shifts frequency band and longitude/latitude….

    2) All satellite TV channels are live and not in delayed/censored mode. This is common China where the government jams content ( not the entire channel) when some thing critical to the government said….. I wonder why we are number #1 ahead of China, hmmmmmm….. Shows the bias and negative campaign of these useless organizations against Eritrea and its people.

    3) Lawful Interception (LI) – Communication equipment feature that ALL governments use to monitor communication including our host countries in the West! If the Government of Eritrea did anything remotely like this, do you think all the illegal activities (human trafficking, money laundering/money transfers….) and risky national security activities by our adversaries such as the videos being fed from Asmara to (TPLF sponsored & operated ) jstudio and others? The government can easily force each and every internet cafe to map everyone’s device to their passport or IDs and monitor their activities, but it doesn’t and yet, Eritrea is number #1 hmmmmm…..

    • k.tewolde September 12, 2019

      Here we go again Salim getting down to the technical nitty gritty of satellite broadcasting and internet,thanks for the lesson. ‘Here is what brought me to that conclusion from my visits to Eritrea:’>>>>> at what cost were you admitted there? where you an independent investigative reporter? did you go visit Ela Iro,Adi Abeito and some of the many notorious prisons of the gulag and interviewed the incommunicado journalists who are wasting away,if you did,you wouldn’t be scribbling the above irrelevant Cable Man post and try to educate us the difference between censorship and freedom of press,you could have learned lessons of a lifetime if you have ventured out of the internet cafes of the besieged capital and visited those souls face to face in their subterranean dwelling. Mr. Salim,you don’t need technological know-how to silence and subjugate an entire population like Eritrea,over 350 known prisons and the regimes dominant employer– the security sector will do the trick.Jamming people’s mouth instead satellite,intercepting human bodies like football and spiking them underground. hmmmmm #1 is not enough,the undisputed champion of the world!!!!!!fits the mold ironically.

  • Salim Negash September 12, 2019

    Selam Brother k.tewolde

    I am curious and somewhat baffled by your propensity to default to the usual line around prisons, prisoners, migrants etc… Compartmentalize each and every subject and provide / exchange your views to win hearts and minds to your cause and that of the people you “wish” to speak on behalf of. The CPJ article is on censorship not on anything else, so why do you always regurgitate the same old line about the pain and suffering of some people. What is your objective?

    Having said that, I sincerely admre your concern for the plight of some of our citizens and hope you are doing some thing about beyond just “talking” about it, especially the migrants …

  • k.tewolde September 13, 2019

    ‘….and that of the people you “wish” to speak on behalf of.’,good try, brother Salim,on whose behalf do you speak?>>’I am curious and somewhat baffled by your propensity to default to the usual line around prisons, prisoners, migrants etc…’, what other default is there besides the man made pain and suffering our people are going through? could it be your seasonal excursion to the nostalgic decaying city and playing tourist in your own home assuming you are from there and sharing your tightly supervised visit Instagram photos in social media,is that your default? promoting photo shopped glossy images of the places seared in our memories from years gone by,the place is worse off than we left it,I don’t see the Patrona Towers piercing to the sky connected by a sky-walk,6 lane expressways connecting Asmara and Keren and beyond….all I see is a queue of bread and ‘government’ issued coupon line and yes a conga line of gericans which became the capitals unique identification from Google images. You asked, ‘What is your objective?’….to speak the truth,nothing but the truth,so help me God,and I only speak for myself and I take full responsibility for what I say. Hope that clears your curiosity and what baffles you akuya Salim. Selam amsi.

  • Wedi Hagher September 13, 2019

    ከምቲ ኣብ ኩሉ ዓለም ዝርከብ ፥ ኤሪትራዊ ሓደ ኣታሓሳስባን ደረጃ ኣፍልጦን የቡሉን።
    ሃገራዊ ዝነበረ ፥ ገሊኡ እንዳ ተረግጸ ፥ ገሊኡ ድማ ንእሰያስ እንዳተማህለለ ፥ እንዳ ተታለለ ፥ ተሰዊኣኡ ፥ ሰንኪሉ ፥ ሃገር ነጻ ኣውጺኡ ።
    እቲ ዱሑር ወገናዊ ድማ ፥ ኣብ ድሕሪ ግንባር ኮይኑ ተጋደልቲ እንዳቀንጸለ ፥ ጸጹቡቁ ኣንዳበለዐ ፥ እንዳ ሎቅመጸ ፥ ኣሕሊፉዎ።
    ሕጂ ፥ እቶም ዳሕሮዎት ፥ ከም ቀደሞም ፥ ሻላ ኣዮኦም ሓለፍቲ ኮይኖም ፥ ጹቡቅ ይነብሩ ኣሎዉ።
    እቶም ሃገራውያን ፥ ከሲሮም ፥
    ዘምሎኹዎ ጣኦት ፥ ሰይጣን ምንባሩ ተረዲኦም ።
    ኣውያት ናይ ጉፉዓት መርገም ኮይኑዎም።
    ማኣዝን ኣጥፊኦም ፥ ኣብ ዓለም ተዘሪኦም።
    ጣኦት ኣፍሪሶም ምሕረት እንተ ዘይሓቲቶም ፥ ብይቅረን ፍቅሪን ኣብ ልቦም እንተ ዘይተመሊሶም ፥ መጨረሻ የቡሉም ስቃዮም።

  • Hdriswuehalalmariet September 14, 2019

    There no doubt the impostor isaias afewerk has been omfortably living in our division but worst still, in our weakness of Waging a War of Propaganda……>> identifying his hidden iagenda, publicly exposing his underlings, such as listing their names with accompanying photos and short summery of their origin.

  • Haben September 15, 2019

    Salim Negash
    How considerate of immigrants!
    I don’t think you wanted to know the difference b/n censorship and freedom of press. You began your statement pretending as a pro-Eritrean people and here you are sowing your poison.

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