The 10 Most Censored Countries in the World

A security guard attempts to restrict a photographer from taking photos of a protest - Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

A security guard attempts to restrict a photographer from taking photos of a protest – Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”
-Thomas Jefferson, 1787

The words above, laid down by American founding father Thomas Jefferson in 1787, stress how vital and important a strong, free media is for a successful nation. In the United States, the press is free (with a few exceptions) and, to date, the nation has been pretty successful. But look at the list of the most corrupt countries in the world and it’s easy to see that many of them have a stranglehold on the press, heavily censoring and whitewashing much of what citizens see and hear.

Constraining the press is the same as constraining the free market. Without easy access to current and uncensored information about what’s happening in the world, citizens can’t be expected to make informed decisions and neither can businesses. Of course, there are plenty of reasons that governments don’t want informed citizens, and the same goes for big business.

In the private sector, there are entire teams of people dedicated to making sure companies and organizations are portrayed in the best possible light, sometimes with success, other times not. Internet forums are monitored, blogs meticulously followed, and even big publishers consistently scrutinized by big business with the threat of pulling valuable advertising revenue.

So, it’s not just the government that has an interest in controlling what you know — it’s private organizations as well.

In the U.S., we have certain levels of protection from censorship, and most of it is done willingly by media companies. In foreign countries, however, it’s a different story.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit that promotes freedom of the press across the world, recently published their most recent list of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to censorship. Littering the top ten are countries that have a tight leash on not just the media, but on the Internet as well. By restricting the flow of information both in and out of their countries, these governments are able to deliver a state-sponsored worldview to their citizens, for better or worse.

While some countries, like China, are well known for their censorship, others have quickly become bastions of oppressive and secretive governments, like Eritrea. To develop the top ten list, the CPJ looked at a variety of factors.

“Countries are measured with the use of a series of benchmarks, including the absence of privately owned or independent media, blocking of websites, restrictions on electronic recording and dissemination, license requirements to conduct journalism, restrictions on journalists’ movements, monitoring of journalists by authorities, jamming of foreign broadcasts, and blocking of foreign correspondents,” the CPJ writes of the methodology, published along with the findings.

Again, behavior like this has wide-ranging negative effects. Foreign businesses have a hard time justifying investment, in many cases, and local economies can suffer. While a quick glance at the top ten, listed below, shows that several of the countries comprising the list are not on friendly terms with the U.S., there are a couple — namely Saudi Arabia and China — that the U.S. is very close with.

Here is the (uncensored!) top ten list, straight from the CPJ. These are the governments most hostile to the free press, and which have the tightest grip on information both coming in and moving out of their respective borders.

10. Cuba

9. Myanmar

8. China

7. Iran

6. Vietnam

5. Azerbaijan

4. Ethiopia

3. Saudi Arabia

2. North Korea

1. Eritrea

Review the complete list, and the methodology, at the Committee to Protect Journalists website.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger

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