Uzbekistan and Belarus among most censored countries in the world
These two post-soviet states are on the new Committee‘s to Protect Journalists (CPJ) list of ten countries in the world where free media is most heavily censored. Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are the runners-up.
Sunday, 06 May 2012, by HRH London, based on Committee to Protect Journalists press release.
CPJ has announced ten countries worldwide where there are vast restrictions on press and information.
Most censored countries on CPJ's list are: Eritrea, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Belarus. Turkmenistan, China, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Sudan and Azerbaijan are among runners-up.
Central Asian countries need to improve conditions for media
According to CPJ, there is no independent press in Uzbekistan. The journalists who are contributing to foreign outlets are subject to harassment and prosecution in this country. In Belarus the most recent of many crackdowns by Aliaksandr Lukashenka has sent the remnants of independent media underground.
CPJ says that two other post-soviet countries, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, left, are also heavily censored.
Press freedom in Turkmenistan, which was among CPJ's 10 Most Censored Countries in 2006, remains in dire condition. All media are government-controlled; editors are appointed by President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov; and access to independent news websites is blocked.
In Azerbaijan, there are no foreign or independent broadcasters on the airwaves, and the few journalists who work on independent newspapers or websites are subject to intimidation tactics, including imprisonment on fabricated charges.
Uzbekistan – no independent media
The country ranked number six on the list. According to the CPJ, in Uzbekistan, ruled by its first elected President Islam Karimov since 1991, there are no independent media outlets based within the country.
Independent journalists – mostly contributors to outlets outside the country – are subject to interrogation and prosecution under defamation charges or outdated statutes such as "insulting national traditions". They and their families are harassed and smeared; some have seen sensitive personal information published by state media.
Internet access to independent news websites and online broadcasters is blocked, as are some keywords and topics on individual web pages. Foreign journalists are denied visas and accreditation.
Muhammad Bekjanov and Yusuf Ruzimuradov of the opposition newspaper Erk have been imprisoned longer than any other jailed journalists in the world, CPJ research shows.
The critical independent journalist Dzhamshid Karimov, the nephew of Uzbekistan’s President Karimov, vanished in 2006 after visiting his mother in the hospital. His friends eventually discovered that he was being held against his will in a psychiatric clinic, where he remained captive until November 2011.
Belarus – journalists sent to underground
Wide-ranging anti-press tactics of autocratic Belarusian President Aliaksandr Lukashenka have included politicised prosecution of journalists; imprisonments; travel bans against critical reporters; debilitating raids on independent newsrooms; wholesale confiscation of newspapers, seizure of reporting equipment; and failure to investigate the murders of at least three journalists in the past 10 years.
After the rigged election of 2010, Lukashenka cracked down on what was left of the independent media, sending it underground. Working as a journalist without government-issued accreditation is prohibited; television is state-owned or state-controlled.
In 2010, Lukashenka signed a law to censor the Internet, created an agency to implement the law, and appointed his own son to head it. Shortly after it was created, the agency blacklisted independent and opposition websites.
Public access to the Internet requires a government-issued ID, which allows the KGB to monitor users. At least one opposition website has been the target of hacking attacks, including one in which a password obtained via malware was used to insert a false news story about an opposition politician.
Following the December 2010 presidential vote, Lukashenka imprisoned prominent independent journalists Iryna Khalip and Natalya Radina on fabricated charges in retaliation for reporting on post-election protests. Khalip was later released from prison under heavy restrictions, while Radina was forced to flee Belarus to avoid a repeated incarceration.
East and Horn of Africa – worrying situation
Eritrea has emerged as the world's most censored country in 2012. No foreign reporters are granted access to Eritrea, and all domestic media are controlled by the government. Ministry of Information officials direct every detail of coverage; they arrange for interview subjects and tell journalists specific angles they have to write on, CPJ reports.
Ethiopia and Sudan appeared as runners-up, according to CPJ evaluation.
In Ethiopia, censorship has become far more restrictive in recent years. The government of Meles Zenawi appoints managers of broadcasters and state newspapers and licenses all media. Anti-terrorism legislation criminalises any reporting that the Ethiopian government deems favorable to opposition movements designated as terrorist.
Authorities in Sudan frequently confiscate newspapers, which are the widespread form of media. This year, security forces have increasingly adopted the technique of confiscating newspaper editions wholesale to inflict financial losses on publishers.
HRH London, based on Committee to Protect Journalists press release.
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Ane Tusvik Bonde
Regional Manager, Caucasus and Eastern Europe
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Information and Communication Officer
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