Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dic-tator Tots

Last week Hu Jintao, Isayas Afewerki, Kim Jong-il & Sayyid Ali Khamenei anxiously checked their mailboxes awaiting the most recent issue of Parade Magazine.

Why were these four men fussing over this particular edition?

Enclosed in the issue was the magazine's annual top 10 list of the worst dictators of 2008, of course!

And just what could have they possibly done to warrant the acquisition of this coveted title?

Blatantly abuse their power? Check!

Suspend elections and essentially erase the civil liberties of their people? Double Check!

Routinely torture and jail citizens? No che-Who am I kidding? CHECK!!!

In addition to sharing the aforementioned characteristics Jintao, Afeweki, Jong-il, and Khamenei are alike in yet another way- they all have discovered the most powerful weapon of them all.

Nuclear bombs? Nope.

Biological warfare? Try Again.

Censorship? Ding! Ding! Ding!

Throughout history censorship has been used to control the hearts, minds and actions of citizens, and such practices have continued well into the 21st century. It, as illustrated below, is a common feature of dictatorships and other authoritarian political systems. Unlike in the United States and other Westernized countries, freedom of speech is not regarded as a fundamental right or liberty of the people. Jintao, Afeweki, Jong-il, and Khamenei have all heavily employed censorship as one of the primary methods to assert and maintain control of their people.

Let's take Kim Jong-il of North Korea for example. Coming in as Parade's #1 worst dictator of 2008, he has successfully managed to run the most isolated and repressive regime in the world. His ability to do so is largely due to the inability of North Korean citizens to access information other than what is provided by the government. Because the nation essentially operates on propaganda, Jong-il maintains an extremely tight control of expression. In fact, his control of expression is so tight that Hu Jintao's China seems free in comparison.

Although Jintao's administration pales in comparison to Jong-il's regime in terms of censorship, Jintao is still no saint. With 42 journalists in jail, constant policing, and deletion of political speech, censorship in China has never been greater. Last year, Jintao not only increased censorship, but cracked down on human-rights activists, forced abortions, limited the practice of religion, and asserted control over all media.

Across Asia in Iran Sayyid Ali Khamenei and his council adopted increasingly repressive measures in an effort to continue to maintain control of Iranian citizens. In 2007, officials not only persecuted dissidents and shut down music studios and cafes, but stoned a man to death or adultery and carried out public hangings.

South of Iran in Africa, Isayas Afewerki implemented a ban on privately owned media, thus making Eritrea "one of the world’s worst abusers of press freedom." Afewerki's repressive policies began shortly after September 11, 2001 when the government shut down the nation’s formerly thriving private press and arrested its most prominent journalists. The crackdown
came shortly after the press covered a split in the ruling party, as it provided a forum for debate on Afewerki’s rule.

The complete list of 2008's top 10 dictators is definitely worth taking a look at. Perhaps you'll see some familiar names, or a few familiar faces. If your favorite dictator didn't make the cut, check the runners-up, and if he or she is still nowhere to be found....

there's always next year.


Dave said...

Don't you find it curious and hypocritical that Eritrea's Arch Enemy Meles Zenawi is on 15th inspite of causing the biggest human crisis (bigger than darfur in Somalia) and literaly hacking, raping and pillaging his own people.

Ohh... sorry then again, he is staunch ally of Mr. Bush, despite killing thousands, stealing the election 2005 and arresting journalists is jusfiable to push him to the bottom of the list.

I will take things with a pinch of salt if I were you.

-L said...

Darfur is in Sudan, not Somalia.

Dave said...

Should have read (bigger than darfur) in Somlia