Authoritarian regimes are becoming more pro-active, sophisticated and innovative – in short, so damn clever – at manipulating and censoring media, writes Christopher Walker, director of studies at Freedom House. The freedom watchdog releases its annual global analysis of media freedom on May 3 – World Press Freedom Day:
The authoritarians’ deft adaptation of censorship has especially serious implications for Internet freedom. By using their wealth and technical acumen to subvert the free flow of information online, governments in these countries are serving as incubators for new media suppression. This incubator effect has international implications, as other authoritarian governments carefully watch these “leaders” and learn from their innovations.
The 10 worst countries for press freedom are, in alphabetical order, Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
But China’s communist regime, in particular, “has become a world leader in the development of new and more sophisticated methods of information control,” the report notes.
The Arab world is another area of concern.
“In the Middle East the Internet had become the most open source of information,” says Karin Karleker, managing editor of the Freedom House press freedom survey. “But Egypt, where there’s a ferocious backlash against independent voices and bloggers, is just one example of what’s going on in the region.”
Nor are democracies immune from blame in the stifling of dissident voices. The UK’s libel laws permit individuals in any one country to sue media outlets either in Britain or abroad. “London’s courts have become the choice destination for Saudi sheikhs, Russian oligarchs, and others who are looking to silence critical voices,” Walker notes.