Have you experienced being grounded and not allowed to go anywhere (aside from school and home) because you keep on breaking the rules? Those were the days when everything felt like you were isolated inside a cage, right? However, those rules were just established simply because it was for your own good.
Being deprived of something you love really sucks – even if you are just restricted for a period of time. But can you imagine living the rest of your life being grounded, being ordered to do the things you are not fond of merely because you still have to consider and abide by the strict rules that were set? Can you imagine being put behind the bars even if you only did what was needed to be done because it was job? Would it be okay for you to be jailed for seeking the transparency that you deserve to know? Can you envision yourself living in one of the countries where the rights of their people are being shut down and restricted by their government, just for the sake of protecting the country’s sociological perspective?
According to the Reporters Without Borders’ 2016 Press Freedom Index, 10% of all 180 countries are strictly censored by their government. How? Here is the list of the most secretive countries and how they are being censored:
Constantly near the bottom of the Press Freedom Index, Cuba strictly forbids news and information being published on televisions, newspapers and other media outlets that are against the government. Journalists who publicize information that oppose the government would face criminal charges.
Privately-owned media outlets are considered illegal. Freedom of speech and journalism is not allowed unless they coordinate with the intended goals of their country – that is to achieve a socialist government.
From 180 countries, the Reporters Without Borders placed Djibouti at the 172nd spot in its 2016’s Press Freedom Index.
The country’s constitution provides protection of its people’s freedom of speech; however, it has been ignored by the government. All forms of media are also controlled by the government and private ownership of media outlets is also not allowed. There are only a few opposition media outlets, and they are based outside the country (some operate online). However, the government also placed restrictions when using the internet and opposition websites are blocked inside the country.
The country’s censorship even intensified in their recent presidential election.
Like most countries listed at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index, Laos’ human rights have always been restrained.
Despite the progress of telecommunications and infrastructures, the government still has control over all media outlets in Laos. And like most censored countries, all of the news that is published is regulated, filtered, and blocked by the government. However, as the 2016 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit is to be hosted by the said country in September, it is yet to be discussed if journalists from different countries will have their freedom in covering any angle related to Laos while they are still inside the country.
Compared to its neighbouring countries (South Sudan, Eritrea, Libya, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Chad, and Egypt) Sudan’s media has more freedom and independence. In spite of the said “freedom” of the press that they currently have, radios, television stations, and other media outlets are controlled, being used to publicize the government’s point of view.
Statements or news against the government and its views are filtered and blocked even before it reaches publication. Journalists who are caught going against the government will be dismissed, with their license also being revoked. They will then be subjected to prosecution. Journalists are also constantly harassed by security forces.
Ever since the first release of the Press Freedom Index in 2012, Vietnam has been ranked at the bottom of the list. However, in 2006, it “progressed” and ranked quite higher compared to before. On the other hand, a year later, its ranking declined again, making the 162nd place.
To continue its liberalization, the Vietnamese government has allowed media to operate without restrictions, yet they are still being monitored by the government. Privately-owned media companies are being enforced to work with Vietnamese government officials and must be really cautious about news.
Despite being close to the bottom of the list, the Chinese government stressed that their people are not being deprived of their rights to free speech.
China established another great wall called the Golden Shield Project (aka “The Great Firewall”) for their censorship and surveillance project because of political reasons – and to be in control of their people. People who are caught posting or even reading things that are forbidden are put behind bars. Another useful bit of information is that China is selling this product to foreign countries.
Syria, being lead by President Bashar al-Assad, is one of the most dangerous places for a journalist; not only because of the raging civil war, but also because of how they repress their media.
In spite of the fact that a law was passed supporting the freedom of the press, Syrian journalists still feel as if nothing has changed since the said law was passed. Journalists are still being arrested without reason. Syria’s media outlets are also restricted and monitored by the government officials.
Internet was widely used in Syria until 2009, as the government extensively filtered and blocked foreign websites. Even online chat rooms are monitored.
Almost all media outlets in Turkmenistan are controlled by the government. Journalists are not allowed to subscribe nor contribute to foreign media outlets. Criticism against their president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is also not allowed.
There are only four radio stations and four national television channels that are recognized by the government. People are prohibited from watching foreign television shows. Although their constitution had already provided them freedom of religion, the government, however, disregarded the law. A law was even implemented in 2003 that required all religious organization to be registered with the government, and those who practice unrecorded religion would be prosecuted.
2. North Korea
Lead by the third member of the Kim dynasty that has ruled the country since 1948, North Korea has been closed off from foreign countries since its foundation. Leaving and entering the country is difficult for foreigners and even local journalists.
Like other censored countries, all media outlets in North Korea are controlled by the government. Their television program would start at around 4:30 p.m. local time, and would always begin with North Korea’s national anthem – followed by songs commemorating their leader. The news usually contains positive things about their country and the leadership of their dictator; news related to the western side of the world is delivered with bitterness.
Apparently, Eritrea topped the famous North Korea on this list for having the most suppressed media in the world.
In 1997, the freedom of speech of the press was already assured by the Eritrea constitution; the government, however, ignored and violated it. As Africa’s worst journalist guard, news correspondents would rather choose to be banished than to be jailed. Their Ministry of Information officers are the ones that direct how coverage should be conducted, and how your writing should look.
Eritrean’s freedom of assembly, association, and religion is also restricted. People who are caught practicing unregistered religion will undoubtably face charges.