In Iran, filmmakers are forbidden to make jokes about the army and women’s belly buttons are censored.


Iranian journalists should be careful with their phrasing: while they may not write that women cannot ride motorcycles in the country, the sentence “only men can ride motorcycles” will pass the censorship office, according to a local editor interviewed by the BBC in 2008.

Across the border in democratic Turkey, reporters face terrorism charges for covering the views of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Equatorial Guinea forbids filmmakers from documenting poverty, which makes filming difficult in a country that ranks 136 in the Human Development Index, while, since 2012, Sudanese newspapers will see the day’s entire print run confiscated if they dare to cover a range of topics ranging from Darfur to the International Criminal Court. China’s more than 70 million microbloggers risk having their messages deleted if they type “Tibet,” “Great Firewall” or the number “64,” which has sometimes stood for June 4, the date of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. After reporting on a cholera epidemic that had affected the eastern part of Cuba, local journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias was arrested in September 2012 on charges of insulting the island’s president. To avoid making mistakes, editors from every Vietnamese newspaper spend Tuesday mornings at the country’s Central Propaganda Department, where they are given news agendas for the week and reprimanded for any infractions of the previous week. 

As of December 2012, at least 232 journalists were in jail around the world for breaking censorship rules, the highest number recorded in history, according to the US-based Committee for Protecting Journalists.


From the pages of COLORS #86 - Making the News.