The Horn of Africa nation Eritrea leads the world in imposing censorship on the media, followed closely by North Korea, Syria and Iran, a journalism group said yesterday.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a report that 10 countries stand out as censors by barring international media, putting “dictatorial controls” on domestic media and imposing other restrictions.
Rounding out the 10 worst censors are Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Belarus.
The report by the committee, a nonprofit organization based in New York, was released to mark World Press Freedom Day today.
Many of the countries on this year’s list were also on the committee’s previous list, published in 2006.
“In the name of stability or development, these regimes suppress independent reporting, amplify propaganda and use technology to control rather than empower their own citizens,” CPJ executive director Joel Simon said in a statement accompanying the report.
“Journalists are seen as a threat and often pay a high price for their reporting,” he said. “But because the internet and trade have made information global, domestic censorship affects people everywhere.”
In making its list, CPJ said its staff evaluated the countries on 15 benchmarks. They include blocking of Web sites, restrictions on electronic recording, absence of privately owned or independent media and restrictions on journalists’ movements.
The report said of Eritrea, which is run with an iron hand by President Isaias Afewerki, that “no foreign reporters are granted access ... and all domestic media are controlled by the government.”
It said that North Korea, Syria and Iran were “three nations where vast restrictions on information have enormous implications for geopolitical and nuclear stability.”
North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, Iran is believed to be working to develop them and Syria reportedly has had nuclear ambitions.
North Korea, which topped the 2006 list, “remains an extraordinarily secretive place,” the report said.
However, it added that there have been “some tiny cracks” in its censorship, including the opening of an Associated Press bureau in the capital this year.
It said censorship “has intensified significantly in Syria and Iran in response to political unrest.”
Syria has banned foreign reporters from the country and limited local reporters from moving freely as it uses its military and police to put down a civilian uprising.
Iran, meanwhile, has blocked Web sites and imprisoned journalists to limit publication and broadcast of information, the report said.