For many of us the idea of being without internet for even a few minutes would be a nightmare, but for citizens of some countries it is an actual reality. And their reality is even worse as they are without internet or large sections of internet content most of us take for granted. They don’t have the same access to information and free speech that we take for granted.
Several countries have banned or restricted internet use to keep citizens from uprising, to ensure their regimes remain intact and to suppress the free voice of the press. It’s a very frightening prospect.
Here’s the top 10.
10 – Cuba
While the country has improved in recent times they’re still playing catch up and have the poorest internet connection speed in the Americas. Free speech is still not 100% accepted and author Ángel Santiesteban Prats has been in prison since 2013 officially because of domestic violence although these claims are said to be bogus and the real reason for his incarceration is because he repeatedly blogged in a way that was critical of the government.
9 – Myanmar
Censorship of media is this country’s main issue. Three journalists and two publishers received two years in prison following the publication of an article online which included a statement from a political activist group that was said to “defame the state”.
8 – China
China are worried that reporting of news can have a negative effect on their communist government and do not wish to see online articles that promote Western values and so their internet is heavily censored. They remain one of the top jailers of journalists in the world.
7 – Iran
Millions of websites are banned completely in Iran and the government has even gone as far as to create fake versions of existing websites and search engines to help its own cause.
6 – Vietnam
Vietnam doesn’t like political bloggers. So much so that they have repeatedly used something called Article 258 which criminalises “abusing democratic freedom” as a means to imprison some bloggers for up to seven years.
5 – Azerbaijan
All media and information is under state control. No international media is allowed and satellite signals are jammed. Online speech can be dangerous as they have a criminal defamation law which can lead to a 6-month prison term for anything the state deems unacceptable, which is fairly subjective.
4 – Ethiopia
The internet is monitored closely for dissent by bloggers and journalists. Due to reporting of government corruption many have been imprisoned. The country has one state-owned ISP who routinely block or suspend websites that they think undermine the country.
3 – Saudi Arabia
It is banned to criticize the government or promote any other country an so many websites are banned. YouTube is very closely monitored as many Saudis try to report news there that is hidden by the state. Saudi Arabia has successfully prosecuted at least seven citizens for calling for women to be allowed to drive and making “anti-government statements” on Twitter.
2 – North Korea
In North Korea only the political elite have full internet access. A heavily redacted version which is propaganda heavy called Kwangmyong is filtered to schools and state institutions. They have been known to edit their own history following the execution of political dissidents. Many people along the border with China attempt to get an internet signal from there but it is very risky as mobile phones are not legal and accessing full internet could have dire consequences for the user if caught.
1 – Eritrea
Internet access is all government-controlled and less than 1% of the population reportedly go online. All non-government controlled media is banned, independent news websites having been long since shut down. Over 500 bloggers and online news reporters remain in prison to this day.
Now having internet restrictions in your work place probably doesn’t seem that bad any more, does it? But the real question is, how much do citizens of these countries know they are having news censored? The answer is probably not at all. And that could lead us all to think that it’s happening to us too, but that’s probably nothing more than an elaborate conspiracy theory.