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No first Amendment

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On the cover of this week’s TIME magazine, Lil’ Kim is written in bold letters, joined by a picture of the baby-doll face of Kim Jong Un. In the TIME article, it talks of the young, untested leader of North Korea and how much power he has. Well, no matter who has the power in the government, the one thing you can be certain of is that the tight leash on the North Korean people is not getting any longer. In 2006, the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) released the top ten most censored countries. North Korea topped the charts, closely followed by Burma, and the top ten ended with Belarus. No surprise there, least not to the North Korean citizens. But then again, there’s a low likelihood they have even heard of the CPJ or of anything bad happening in North Korea.

There’s good reason for North Korea being named the worst country for censorship, but Burma and Belarus give NK a run for their money. The government (NK) protested Christmas trees being put up near the North and South Korean border, saying that the South was trying to convert North Koreans into Christianity. But if they had been converted, they most likely would have ended up in a prison camp. North Korea and Burma beat Belarus in a landslide when it comes to censorship. In Belarus, the independent journalists avoid sensitive topics. There are no independent journalists in North Korea, and if there are any in Burma, they better keep their heads down. Christmas is okay in Belarus, and you’ve already read on how North Korea responds to it. In the end, although Burma is a close follower with Belarus catching up, North Korea is easily the most censored country.

Unnecessary and unfair laws are found in all three countries and are quite similar. In North Korea and Burma, it is against the law to for any news source to address negative topics. That includes famines, fires, murders, and anything else you can think of. Instead, they put it into a positive light. In North Korea, the press said after a deadly train explosion that people were rescuing pictures of their “Great Leader” instead of rescuing family members and loved ones. The Burmese government once stated, “The Myanmar people do not want to watch, read, or listen to corrupt and lopsided news reports and lies. The Myanmar people even feel loathsome to some local media that are imitating the practice of featuring corrupt and lopsided news reports and lies.” Another law I believe is ridiculous is that in Belarus, you cannot criticize the president. Journalists will be jailed if they so much as utter a disagreement – and the same thing happens in the other two countries. Stephen Colbert would not last a day in those countries with those insane laws.

The punishments vary in severity, but then again, we don’t know whether these countries have released all their punishments. In Belarus, there are prison penalties of up to 5 years for criticizing the president. If a reporter is at a rally, he could possibly be (and usually is) charged for “Hooliganism.” Capital punishment is a common sentence in all three countries. North Korea said 60+ cases resulted in capital punishment in a single year, usually for going against the government. Many other crimes are punished by imprisonment, like being a Christian or making out-of-country phone calls. One factory owner was shot and killed in front of a huge crowd for making out-of-country calls from his factory. Being put in prison instead of capital punishment is not exactly a better option: Prisons in North Korea are said to have terrible conditions. Prisoners are subject to torture and inhumane conditions. Most die from starvation, illness, or beatings. There are also prison camps where the punishment for breaking any rule is death. Shin Dong Hyuk grew up in a North Korean prison camp and escaped – one of the few who has broken a rule and lived to tell the tale – with bone chilling stories. “Resistance is simply unthinkable,” he says at one point. The prisons found in Burma are just as inadequate, according to the AAPPB (Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (Burma). Belarus prisons are said to be improving. As you can tell, the punishments are enough to frighten anyone.

The severe punishments may be the reason these countries have such a low crime rate. Although North Korea does not release its statistics (according to the U.S. Department of State), we do have information for Burma and Belarus. In Burma, there were a total of 18,301 crimes in a recent year, as reported by Nation Master. In Belarus, there were 132,867 crimes total that year. Burma is a more censored country, but surprisingly it has a lower crime rate than Belarus, the 10th censored country. But this does not surprise me, because why would such a censored country give out their real crime rates? And even if it is their real crime rates, that would not shock me either. With such laws in place, it would be rather difficult to break them, but the punishments make up for the hardness. With such harsh punishments, I would be scared to commit a crime, too.

Of all the lack of rights in these countries, the hardest for me would be the lack of freedom of religion, as well as freedom of press. I’m a Christian, and next year I will attend a Jesuit school. I love my faith, and not having the ability to practice my religion would hurt me tremendously. I’m also a huge fan of comedy shows, which most of the time make fun of political figures. I would hate to see those be taken off the air and the creators punished. I’m sure South Park, The Daily Show, and The Onion would be abolished. Believe it or not, I learn a lot about current events from news sources like The Daily Show and The Onion. I’m sure Facebook would not be available, and that’s where most of my catching up with people goes on. I’m betting the same for Wikipedia and all other sites not government approved. If I no longer had access to these resources, writing essays would nearly be impossible due to a lack of information, and it would be difficult for me to catch up with my friends. To summarize it, I don’t know what I would do with my free time if I lived in a country with so few rights as the countries above.

In conclusion, life must be dreary and lonesome in places like North Korea, Burma, and Belarus. Although Belarus is not as bad as the others, its freedoms do not measure up to America’s. Since I’m used to hundreds of TV channels, Burma’s three would definitely decrease the amount of information and opinions I’m exposed to. The punishments are worse than the laws, with inadequate prison facilities and unsure crime rates. “Lil’ Kim’s” empire is censored to revolve around the government. North Korea, Burma, and Belarus definitely earned their place in the top 10 most censored countries.



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