Citizens' Access to Information Limited in Many Countries

Mariama Diallo

Media freedom is usually considered essential for healthy and vibrant societies.  But as the hunger for unlimited information grows globally, some governments are doing whatever they can to limit -- and sometimes block -- access to it.

Everyone wants access to unlimited and unobstructed information but not everyone gets it.

“Seeking and receiving information is a fundamental human right," stresses Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent organization that promotes press freedom worldwide.  His organization recently published a report on the world’s 10 most-censored nations. The East African country of Eritrea is at the top of the list.

“Eritrea is just completely closed," he explained.  "No journalists are getting in.  There are no international bureaus.  It’s completely censored. ”

But Dawit Haile from the Eritrean embassy in Washington says the report is groundless.

"There are various and many types of satellite dishes that are available throughout the city," Haile noted, "but also the countryside - also the city is filled with internet cafes, and people read all kinds of information.”

Eritrea is not alone. This year's CPJ list includes countries like North Korea, Syria, Iran, Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, Burma, Cuba, Belarus, and a new entry from the Middle East.

“Saudi Arabia has long been a closed society," explained Simon of the CPJ.  "A wide range of political criticism that might be defined as blasphemy, as criticism of religious institutions, is heavily suppressed.”

No immediate response to the report was available from the Saudi embassy in Washington.

Although professional journalists continue to play a critical role, more of the information flow is being provided by citizen journalists, through blogs and social media platforms. Mark Jurkowitz is with the Pew Research Center’s Excellence in Journalism project - a non-partisan and non-profit organization.

“We have seen journalism, or at least the disseminating of news and information, move from just those who had the ability to own a printing press or a TV station to frankly almost anyone, any citizen. That’s a tremendously important development,” noted Jurkowitz.

In the age of information overload,  it can sometimes be hard to know what's true.  And governments are still able to censor information - protecting their own interests, often at the expense of people's right to know.  But despite the never-ending challenges of news gathering, most journalists go out every day with a simple goal of giving the viewer, listener or reader the truth.  Most journalists take that role seriously, some even paying the ultimate price. So far this year, 17 journalists have died.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Aron Tsegai
May 03, 2012 12:51 PM
VOA has a corespondent in Eritrea and they can report anything they like, internet cafe are open until 10pm through out the city so unless you never being to Eritrea or you have ulterior motive to claim people are afraid to open letters.

by: Aron Tsegai
May 03, 2012 12:48 PM
Yonas who gave you the right to represent Eritrea? Dawit is representing the Eritrean government and he has every right to speak on behave of the Eritrean people. Since you are not representing anyone I am not so sure you have the right to speak on our behave. What Dawit said is not lie, after all Eritreans in Eritrea have access to any satellite News from the middle east to regional and international CNN coverages.

by: Yonas Gebreselassie
May 02, 2012 9:47 PM
In Eritrea there is no separation of power among the three branches of Goverment and the judiciary is under a complete control by the Ministry of Justice, which is the executive branch. It is also the Executive branch that enacts laws and promulgates proclamation. As a result, the detainees of September 18, 2001, could not be rescued. We commend the Committee to Protect journalists for becoming a voice to the voiceless and the great work.

by: Yonas Gebreselassie
May 02, 2012 9:45 PM
I can't help but wonder how low some people could get when deciding to lie. It is very sad having people like the man (Dawit Haile) from the Eritrean Embassy to represent the entire population. People in Eritrea are scared to death to read even letters sent from abroad in their own homes let alone to check and read news and reports in internet cafes. We do not press legislation aimed at protecting freedom of expression and the press and no private news papers.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs