For people all over the world, going online to chat with friends, share viral videos, and post news articles is a daily routine. But in certain countries, such acts—if possible at all—are censored and can lead to harassment, imprisonment, or worse. Censorship remains a primary tool for governments to control the press and restrict the flow of ideas. While journalists and activists are most often targeted, the suppression impacts all who value free and open communication.
To shed light on the most extreme censorship, Stacker examined the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) most recent list of the top 10 most censored countries in the world. In the 2015 ranking the countries, CPJ measured the lack of independent media outlets, the jamming of foreign broadcasts, and the blocking of international correspondents. Researchers also tracked obstacles imposed on reporters such as restrictions on electronic recordings, the monitoring of journalists, and burdensome license requirements.
“From government surveillance and censorship to computer hacking, from physical attacks to imprisonment, kidnapping, and murder, the aim is to limit or otherwise control the flow of information,” wrote veteran journalist Christiane Amanpour in the CPJ report.
Scroll through the slides to see which countries will almost certainly block this article.
Despite U.S. efforts during the Cold War, Cuba's one-party communist government continues to censor nearly all dissent. Most print and broadcast media is controlled by the state, and international journalists are granted visas on a selective basis.
Myanmar's decades-long struggle with ethnic strife and military rule has left the country with a tightly controlled media environment. Any news deemed harmful to ethnic unity or disruptive to the rule of law is banned, and foreign journalists face enormous obstacles when reporting within the country. In September, two Reuters journalists were sentenced to prison while reporting on human rights abuses against the Rohingya population in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
The world's most populous country also maintains one of the most robust internet surveillance and censorship regimes. Known as the "great firewall of China," the government blocks most popular foreign websites, like Google and YouTube, instead allowing only heavily monitored domestic sites. Dissent and criticism is largely wiped from the internet, and images of Winnie the Pooh were banned because of the bear's alleged resemblance to President Xi Jinping.
Iran continues to jail journalists and maintain strict control of the nation's internet, banning millions of websites. Social media sites like Twitter are blocked, and expressions deemed un-Islamic, like posting a dance video on Instagram, can lead to arrest.
Since Vietnam's ruling Communist Party took control of the country in the 1970s, the government has kept a tight grip on the spread of information. Independent media outlets are not allowed to operate freely, and authorities widely block websites critical of the state.
The former Soviet country of Azerbaijan maintains control over most of the nation's press and public discourse. News is presented mainly by government broadcasters and newspapers, or through state proxies. The internet is also widely monitored and heavily self-censored, due to repressive speech laws.
Much of the world cheered Ethiopia last month as it elected the country's first female president, but progress has been slow to reach the country's censorship practices. Most independent publications have been closed, and the government controls nearly all of the airwaves. Bloggers and critical voices continue to face harassment and imprisonment.
Saudi Arabia's suppression of dissent and free speech was broadcast across the world in October 2018 in addressing the murder of prominent Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Average citizens in the kingdom also face oppressive restrictions: Virtually all social media is monitored, and ideas critical of the government or contrary to Islam can carry weighty sentences.
Known as the “Hermit Kingdom" to the rest of world, North Korea is one of the most isolated and censored countries on the planet. Information is restricted from spreading abroad and free speech is suppressed within the country. Independent news sources are almost nonexistent, and internet access is available only to the political elite.
The small East African nation of Eritrea controls the world's most restrictive and oppressive censorship regimes. The government is the sole propagator of news and all mobile communications, and internet services pass through state-controlled regulators. Even Eritrean activists living in exile struggle to distribute media inside the country, due the government's robust signal jamming systems.