Those of us who live in free countries too often take our freedom of expression for granted. We sometimes need wake-up calls in the form of comparisons to other parts of the world where those freedoms just don't exist yet. That's why the Committee to Protect Journalists - who comprise a critical facet of free speech in a democracy - has released a Bottom Ten List of worst-offending countries in terms of the oppression of bloggers who dare criticize anything the Motherland or Dear Leader says.
It's only appropriate that we, living as we do in a country with the right to criticize our own and others' governments built right into our Constitution, take this opportunity to make critical statements about each of these countries, in solidarity with the people enduring these regimes. And oddly enough, all of these places are theocratic and/or collectivist governments. Funny how that works:
Myanmar - I've posted on this Chinese satellite government in the past.
Iran - Feel free to revisit this video of New Yorkers laughing in Ahmedinejad's face when he said there are no gay people in Iran; or pick up a copy of the Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie, which caused the Iranian government in 1989 to send out assassins after him; also please view this cartoon which is apparently so unforgiveable that we aren't allowed to look at it.
Syria - Still ruled by the "Arab Socialists" of the Ba'ath Party who deliberately keep their people in a condition of welfare-state dependence - yes, the same Ba'ath Party of Saddam Hussein's unipolar Iraq.
Cuba - it is useful to remember that American relations with Cuba are sour not just because we're stubborn, but as inducement for Cuba to see the light on extremely basic human rights issues - like freedom of the press, which it (amazingly) still has not granted its citizens even after almost a half century in power.
Saudi Arabia - A supposed ally, this is the country of 9-year old girls marrying middle-aged men, imams appointed university professors and insisting the world is flat, and where women cannot drive a car unchaperoned. If some lucky nomads hadn't pitched their tents on a good spot a few generations ago, no one would have to tolerate their medieval superstitions.
Vietnam - a mini-China in the sense that their economic growth has not yet led to freedom - of the press, or, apparently, of religious conscience, judging by the state's strong-arm treatment of Christians (for just one example).
Tunisia - I know very little of this country which hosts the ruins of Carthage (probably by their government's design), but its record of oppressing the written word speaks for itself.
Turkmenistan - Among the 10 most censored countries in the world. If you're not a member of one of the official state religions (Orthodox Christian or Sunni Muslim) you're S.O.L. Funny how freedom of speech and worship always seem to be withheld together.
China - my favorite target. Take your pick - here, here, or here. One of the reasons I use a pseudonym on this blog is that I don't want to get denied entry into the country at Pudong International and sent back to the States - which does happen.
Egypt - Any country that considers itself prepared for H1N1 flu because it ludicrously ordered that all pigs in the country be slaughtered is not a government doing any favors to its people.
Strangely, North Korea is nowhere on the blogger list (though it is #1 on most censored and high up on the religious oppression list). Perhaps it's absent from the anti-blog list perhaps because North Koreans would need access to devices with solid state circuitry to read blogs.
As a final note, supporters of socialism, and of religion-in-government, are always at a loss to explain why collectivist and theocratic states are always such unpleasant places to live, particularly where freedom of religion and expression are concerned. What is the justification for this glaring reality? Why do the authorities have to arrest so many unhappy people to keep their states standing?
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