CPJ Ranks Ten Most Censored Countries

In preparation for World Press Freedom Day, the Committee to Protect Journalists published its findings on the most censored countries in the world. The top three countries with the most press restrictions and least access to media information were revealed to be Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria. Guidelines used to determine the ranking included dictatorial control over news coverage through propaganda, brute force, and software technology. In a piece written for The Huffington Post, CPJ's Internet Advocacy Coordinator Danny O'Brien wrote, "The working Internet is alike, the world over. Every censored, silenced, and filtered national network is broken in its own way. Each country on our list has found a unique way to hamper the spread of journalism online: the end result has been to punish its own citizens with online isolation and silence."

As the new leader of the list, Eritrea maintains tight grips on public information and communication from the press in the country. According to the report, no foreign journalists are allowed in the country, and the nation's Ministry of Information, headed by Minister Ali Abdu, controls all publications and media activity within its borders. Journalists are conscripted into their work and enjoy no editorial freedom, and the government provides them with specific, rigid instructions on how to cover events. Said one anonymous Eritrean reporter, "Every time [a journalist] had to write a story, they arrange for interview subjects and tell you specific angles you have to write on." Furthermore, journalists are frequently held in prison without being able to contact their families or lawyers.

North Korea, which topped the list the last time it was published in 2006, moved to second place. The public still does not have access to the wider world via the Internet. All news and information is relayed through the official Korean Central News Agency that is tightly controlled by the North Korean regime. In Syria, censorship has increased dramatically since the onset of demonstrations protesting Assad's regime last year. The government has eliminated all independent coverage of news in the country. Much of foreign correspondence from the country has been from citizen journalists, as the report states. Moreover, the Syrian Electronic Army has frequently hacked websites to post content in support of the current regime.

The CPJ's release comes right on the heels of Freedom House's release of their "Freedom of the Press" Survey. Both reports reflect the concern that press freedom is decreasing around the world. Freedom House found that the percentage of the world's people living in a free-press environment fell to 14.5, the lowest level since 1996, when the group began considering population as a factor in its findings.