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Eritrea, North Korea, Syria top list of 10 most censored countries

By Committee to Protect Journalists
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New York, May 2, 2012--Dictatorial control over news coverage, achieved through a combination of propaganda, brute force, and sophisticated technology, define the world's top 10 most censored countries the Committee to Protect Journalists found in a new report issued to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria top the list, underscoring that domestic restrictions on information have broad implications for global geopolitical stability.

“In the name of stability or development, these regimes suppress independent reporting, amplify propaganda, and use technology to control rather than empower their own citizens,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Journalists are seen as a threat and often pay a high price for their reporting. But because the Internet and trade have made information global, domestic censorship affects people everywhere.”

CPJ's report details how censorship works in each nation and highlights some trends among the censored countries, including disputed legitimacy of leadership and lagging economic development. In Eritrea, only state media is allowed to operate and the international press has been shut out, according to CPJ's report. North Korea's official news agency produces all content for local media, while foreign reporters have limited access and are always under surveillance. Syria has imposed a blackout on independent news coverage for more than a year, unleashing a range of physical and electronic attacks while disabling means of communication. The list of top 10 nations is rounded out by Iran, Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Belarus.

The new rankings, which update a list published in 2006, was determined according to 15 benchmarks assessed by CPJ experts. These include the blocking of websites, restrictions on electronic recording and dissemination, the absence of privately owned or independent media, restrictions on journalist movements, jamming of foreign broadcasts, and blocking of foreign correspondents, among others. All countries on the list met at least 10 benchmarks. CPJ also considered Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, China, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam -- all heavily censored nations that call for scrutiny.

The report is available in Arabic, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. CPJ also published a video counting down the top 10 most censored countries with a brief outline of their restrictions.