In a new report, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named Turkmenistan, Iran, and Belarus as being among the ten worst countries for press censorship.
The report released on September 10 by the U.S.-based media-freedom watchdog said repressive governments in these countries "use sophisticated digital censorship and surveillance alongside more traditional methods to silence independent media."
In these ten countries, authorities ban or severely restrict independent media and intimidate journalists into silence with "imprisonment, digital and physical surveillance, and other forms of harassment," the report said.
"Self-censorship is pervasive," it added.
In the top three countries -- Eritrea, North Korea, and Turkmenistan -- the media "serves as a mouthpiece of the state, and any independent journalism is conducted from exile. The few foreign journalists permitted to enter are closely monitored," according to CPJ.
Cult Of Personality
In Turkmenistan, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov "enjoys absolute control over all spheres of life…including the media, using it to promote his cult of personality," the report said.
“All media outlets are owned or tightly controlled” by the Turkmen government, and the authorities suppress independent voices by detaining, jailing, or forcing journalists to flee the country.
Other countries on the list of the ten worst countries for media "use a combination of blunt tactics like harassment and arbitrary detention as well as sophisticated surveillance and targeted hacking to silence the independent press."
Iran, along with Saudi Arabia and China, was cited for "jailing and harassing journalists and their families, while also engaging in digital monitoring and censorship of the Internet and social media."
The other countries listed were Equatorial Guinea, Belarus, and Cuba.
In Belarus, authorities "exercise almost absolute control over the media; and the few independent journalists and bloggers face harassment and detentions," the CPJ report said.
The Belarusian state "systematically targets influential media outlets and individuals, often in very public ways, arresting journalists, raiding newsrooms, and initiating criminal probes for reporting," it added.
The group noted that its list addresses only those countries where the government tightly controls the media.
In war-ravaged countries such as Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, conditions for journalists are "extremely difficult, but not necessarily attributable solely to government censorship," CPJ said.