Had a hankering to visit Eritrea lately? If you aren’t familiar, the country is in the Horn of Africa and shares borders with Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south and Djibouti in the southeast.
Eritrea is number one on the list of “10 Most Censored Countries,” based on a 2015 study by the Committee to Protect Journalists. The report used measurements on Internet restrictions, the presence of independent media and license requirements for journalists, among others, as criteria for the list, according to Poytner.org.
North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Iran, China, Burma and Cuba round out the remainder of the top 10 list.
“The tactics used by Eritrea and North Korea are mirrored to varying degrees in other heavily censored countries,” Poytner reported. “To keep their grip on power, repressive regimes use a combination of media monopoly, harassment, spying, threats of journalist imprisonment, and restriction of journalists’ entry into or movements within their countries.”
Imprisonment is the most effective form of intimidation and harassment used against journalists. Seven of the 10 most censored countries—Eritrea, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Iran, China, and Burma—are also among the top 10 worst jailers of journalists worldwide, according to CPJ’s annual prison census which was referenced in the study.
But some go much further: American-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in Istanbul in October for writing articles critical of the Saudi royal family.
Here are some highlights from the study based on an April 2015 article by Poytner:
In Eritrea, only state media is allowed to disseminate news. Article 53 of North Korea’s constitution may call for a free press, but access to independent news sources is extremely limited.
Amendments to the Saudi press law in 2011 punished the publication of any materials deemed to contravene Sharia law, impinge on state interests, promote foreign interests, harm public order or national security, or enable criminal activity.
As Ethiopia prepared for its May 2015 elections, the state systematically cracked down on the country’s remaining independent publications through the arrests of journalists and intimidation of printing and distribution companies.
The main sources of information in Azerbaijan are broadcasters, which are owned and controlled by the state or its proxies. International broadcasters are barred or their satellite signals are jammed. Vietnam’s Communist Party–run government allows no privately held print or broadcast outlets.
In Iran, the government uses mass and arbitrary detention as a means of silencing dissent and forcing journalists into exile. For more than a decade, China has been among the top three jailers of journalists in the world, a distinction that it is unlikely to lose any time soon. In Burma, Printers and Publishers Registration Law, enacted in March 2014, bans news that could be considered insulting to religion, disturbing to the rule of law, or harmful to ethnic unity.
Cuba continues to have the most restricted climate for press freedom in the Americas. The print and broadcast media are wholly controlled by the one-party Communist state, which has been in power for more than half a century and, by law, must be “in accordance with the goals of the socialist society.”
And last week in America, President Donald Trump suggested that the U.S. government operate its own media outlet.
“While CNN doesn’t do great in the United States based on ratings, outside of the U.S. they have very little competition. Throughout the world, CNN has a powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair…. ” — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018
“….and false way. Something has to be done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!” — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018
Something has to be done? Trump’s interests are served if the American people think news is fake. If people don’t believe the news and journalists, there is no one left to challenge him. Think about it. And think about countries where this ideology is at play. Are those societies worth mimicking?
Much of the news involving Trump is presented quoting him on camera. Even so, he describes coverage with audio and video clips being played as fake. I wouldn’t dispute that some news organizations show bias. For example, CNN may lean liberal and FOX may lean conservative, but the news they present is not fake.
It should be of great concern that an American president is floating the idea of state-run news.
Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.com @sheawilson7.