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CPJ Report Lists '10 Most Censored Countries'

A reader of the independent Belarusian newspaper "Nasha Niva," which struggles to survive in an increasingly repressive environment ( PRAGUE, May 2, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- A new report by the media watchdog group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) finds that North Koreans live in the most heavily censored country in the world.

The other countries that make up the 10 most censored states are, in order, are Burma, Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Eritrea, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Syria, and Belarus.

The CPJ issued its report, called the "10 Most Censored Countries," to mark World Press Freedom Day, which falls on May 3.

The CPJ's executive director, Ann Cooper, says those living in these 10 countries are virtually isolated from the rest of the world by authoritarian rulers who "muzzle the media and keep a chokehold on information through restrictive laws, fear, and intimidation."

Cooper says that by any international standard, the practices of these governments are unacceptable.

She calls state-sponsored censorship one of the most urgent threats facing journalists worldwide.

The Media In Belarus

The Media In Belarus

'A CENTRAL-ASIAN LEVEL OF PRESS FREEDOM': The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) calls the current conditions for journalists in Belarus "frightening."

CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator ALEX LUPIS, who had just returned from a trip to Belarus, told an RFE/RL briefing on 15 February that he found conditions that make it almost impossible for journalists to report independently on the campaign leading to the country's 19 March presidential election.

Lupis said the Belarusian government is "criminalizing" independent journalism, and forcing journalists to leave the country, change professions or join the state-controlled media. There is a "Cold War atmosphere" in Belarus, Lupis said, adding that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka makes up the rules of the game. The Internet, he said, is the "last free outlet" where independent journalists can publish, but Russia and Belarus are updating their media laws in order to restrict Internet usage. Numerous journalists with whom Lupis spoke said that they miss the support they used to receive from nongovernmental organizations such as IREX and Internews, which were once active in Belarus.

Lupis believes that the government in Belarus bans independent journalism because it fundamentally "mistrusts its own people."

Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
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See these RFE/RL stories on the media in Belarus:

Independent Newspaper Struggles Against State Interference

EU-Funded Media Broadcasts To Start Before March Elections

Authorities 'Cleanse' Media Ahead Of 2006 Vote

Click on the image to view a dedicated page with news, analysis, and background information about the Belarusian presidential ballot.

Click on the image to view RFE/RL's coverage of the election campaign in Belarusian and to listen to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.