Eritrea Ranked as Most-Censored Country by Journalism Group

Posted on May 2, 2012

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Eritrea is the world’s most-censored nation, ahead of countries including North Korea and Syria, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

The three countries are joined in the top 10 by Iran and Equatorial Guinea, the New York-based organization said in a report on its website today. Reporters in Eritrea, a nation in the Horn of Africa which won independence from Ethiopia in 1993, are conscripted into their work and handed instructions on how to cover events, the group said. The last accredited foreign correspondent was expelled in 2007, it said.

“No foreign reporters are granted access to Eritrea and all domestic media are controlled by the government,” the committee said. “Ministry of Information officials direct every detail of coverage.”

Eritrea has been ruled by President Isaias Afwerki, a former rebel leader, since it seceded following a guerrilla war that toppled Ethiopia’s communist Derg military regime in 1991. Seven years later, the two countries fought a two-year border war in which 70,000 people were killed.

Since his election by the National Assembly 19 years ago, Afwerki has “managed to hold off elections and the implementation of a constitution, largely by imprisoning critics and obliterating the private press,” the committee said.

Eritrea’s government rejected the concept of an independent media.

‘Propaganda Mouthpieces’

“There is no independent press all over the world,” Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union, Girma Asmerom, said in a phone interview from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. “It’s either owned by a company or an individual.”

Eritrea banned private media in 2001 because they had become “propaganda mouthpieces for external foreign influences,” he said. The country’s media is now focused on the “development agenda and poverty alleviation,” Girma said.

Other African countries where the media is heavily censored include Ethiopia and Sudan, the committee said. The other top 10 entrants were Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Belarus.

While China was not included in the list, it “plays a particularly harmful role worldwide” because it exports censorship techniques, the report said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Paul Richardson in Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net; William Davison in Addis Ababa via Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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