The Committee to Protect Journalists has listed the 10 countries where the news media are the most restricted. Led by Eritrea and North Korea, the CPJ report released Tuesday says that these countries harass and imprison journalists, as well as censor the Internet to keep reporters quiet.
The report names China as the world's leading jailer, with 44 journalists behind bars. And the CPJ cites Iran as using mass and arbitrary detention to silence dissent or force exile.
With 200 journalists worldwide jailed this year alone, Courtney Radsch of CPJ said it’s a perilous time to be reporting.
“The past three years have been the most dangerous on record for journalists - with record killings, of imprisonment, and based on CPJ’s assistance data, more than 400 journalists have been forced into exile over the past five years,” said Radsch.
Internet censorship is a key weapon to stifle criticism. In North Korea, only the political elite have access to the Web. In Cuba, bloggers must upload from foreign embassies or hotels to get an unfiltered connection.
China’s 642 million Internet users face what's called the “Great Firewall,” which blocks dissenting sites and social media.
“Censorship is a very powerful tool, it does restrict information flows," said Radsch. "In order to bypass censorship you often have to have advanced technical skills, [know] what tools to use, what techniques and also how to keep their sources safe and their broader profiles safe.”
The Arab Spring movement led to crackdowns in Eritrea, where the government scrapped plans to provide mobile Internet for its citizens. Since the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia has amended press laws to prevent the publication of materials that contradict Sharia law or undermine public order.
State-run media are often the only source of information in the 10 countries on the list. Radsch said the report’s publication lets journalists and citizens in these countries know the world is watching and that it cares.
In addition to China, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the CPJ's top 10 most restrictive countries list also includes Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Burma and Cuba.