A media watchdog has determined that Eritrea is the world's most censored country.
Eritrea topped the list of the 10 most censored countries in a report released Tuesday by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
In addition to maintaining a legal monopoly on Eritrea's broadcast media and control over state media journalists, the watchdog said alternate sources of information such as the government-controlled internet and exiled radio stations are restricted. The report also labled the Eritrean government as "the worst jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa," noting at least 16 journalists had been jailed since December 2018.
The Eritrean government denied citizens don't have access to alternate sources of information. The country's minister of information, Yemane Ghebremeskel, tweeted that "91% of households in Eritrea's cities & towns possess satellite dishes & receive more than 650 international TV channels in a highly deregulated sector."
Rounding out the top three countries are North Korea and Turkmenistan, where the CPJ said "the media serves as a mouthpiece of the state" and "any independent journalism is conducted from exile."
The report said exceptions have been made for the "few foreign journalists" who are allowed in those countries but "are closely monitored."
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says everyone has the right to access news and express opinions. But the CPJ report said the 10 worst 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."
The report said "harassment and arbitrary detention" and "sophisticated surveillance and "targeted hacking" are particularly effective methods used by Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam and Iran — which follow Turkmenistan as the worst regimes to silence the media.
Completing the 10 most censored list are Equatorial Guinea, Belarus and Cuba.
CPJ also noted conditions for journalists and press freedom in the war-torn countries of Syria and Yemen are "extremely difficult, but not necessarily attributable solely to government censorship."
CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said the internet has not rendered censorship obsolete throughout the world as expected.
"Many of the world's most censured countries are highly wired, with active online communities," said Simon. "These governments combine old-style brutality with new technology, often purchased from Western countries, to stifle dissent and control by the media."
The watchdog said China has the most sophisticated censorship apparatus, citing the "Great Firewall" that blocks Chinese internet users and the regime's monitoring of domestic social media networks and its surveillance of international journalists.