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  • In 1780, John Adams wrote, "The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom."

  • Countries with the worst human rights abuses tend to pass laws prohibiting the publication and consumption of dissenting opinions.

  • Freedom of the press is so important, it is written into the US’s First Amendment, but not all countries share this view.

  • So, what are the countries with the worst censorship policies?

  • In recent years, media watchdog groups have repeatedly pointed to the African country of Eritrea as having the most aggressively restrictive press censorship.

  • Eritrea has used a sort of state of emergency concerning their border dispute with Ethiopia in order to force independent media outlets to close, and arrest journalists.

  • This is unsurprising in light of the fact that Eritrea has one of the worst human rights records in the world,

  • with religious persecution, indefinite military conscription, and until recently, female genital mutilation as just a few of their problems.

  • Since 2000, 23 journalists have been jailed without being charged, and several have reportedly died in custody.

  • Less than 1% of citizens have internet access, and even that is filtered through the country’s only telecommunications company.

  • The next worst offender is North Korea.

  • Information in the Hermit Kingdom is known to be tightly controlled, and massively misinformed.

  • Their exclusively state-run media makes claims like "North Korea Leads the World in Human Rights" while having among the worst human rights record in the world.

  • Additionally, access to the internet is rare, and unrestricted cell phones are prohibited.

  • Some residents are able to access the country’s internal internet which is a collection of several thousand government curated websites designed to spread propaganda.

  • Saudi Arabia is also a big proponent of punishing dissent.

  • As a monarchy, the country uses royal decrees and anti-terrorism scares to outlaw any criticism of the government or Islam.

  • They use an absentee court to pass harsh sentences without the defendant even being present.

  • They also monitor web traffic, blocking any sites that are incompatible with state positions.

  • In 2011, they passed a law forcing all online bloggers and news organizations to apply for a license in order to continue operating.

  • China is also well known for its strict and aggressive internet censorship, and holds the largest number of jailed journalists, 44 in 2014.

  • Vietnam’s government has strict laws that dictate all media should be used as a mouthpiece for the country’s Communist party.

  • Bloggers are kept under supervision, attacked in the street, and regularly arrested.

  • As reported by the Freedom of the Press index, only about 14% of the world lives in a country with a truly unrestricted press, mostly in North America, Europe, and Australia.

  • The worst are found in Africa and Asia.

  • Luckily, in many restrictive countries, residents use clandestine means to gain and report information from the outside world.

  • Despite the harsh punishments they face, it’s clear that people will find a way to get informed.

  • In 2009, while I was held captive in North Korea, I was allowed to watch some television with my guards and I got an inside look at what the country’s media was really like.

  •  While they did have shows related to exercise, cooking and even the American cartoon Tom & Jerry, the majority of programming was devoted to government propaganda.

  • To learn more about what got me through that very difficult time please, check out watch my new series Rituals.

In 1780, John Adams wrote, "The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom."

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