When we think of censorship, our minds may flicker back to the invention of the printing press and the subsequent crackdown of major governmental entities — specifically, the British Empire.
However, censorship is still alive and well to this very day, with several countries exercising their power to ban literary works religiously.
While there are a number of countries that participate in this act, here is a list of countries whose crimes against literature are the most egregious:
The first and most notable country on this list is, without a doubt, North Korea. Also referred to as the world’s most secretive (and oppressed) state, North Korea is known for its dismal lack of freedom of speech. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the ruling Kim family regime is in total control of every aspect of citizens’ lives.
This particular regime is infamous for restricting the flow of information traveling into the country; the influence of foreign media; the books, curricula, movies, plays, and music that are permitted within the country’s borders; and even citizens’ access to the internet.
By keeping citizens practically cut off from the surrounding world, the Kim regime has received undying loyalty and praise — which may or may not be fueled by fear. After all, it is not uncommon for those who speak out against the extremist government to be imprisoned, tortured, or worse.
Saudi Arabia comes in close second, with its notorious censorship laws that often prevent the publication and sale of books for no announced reason. In fact, many literary works are judged by the whim of the censor, who can ban a book on any logical basis — even if it is as simple as disliking the title.
Unfortunately, this act of banning on a whim is of great detriment not only to the people of Saudi Arabia but to its economy as well, seeing as Saudi Arabia holds the largest market for books in the Middle East.
Finally, this list would not be complete without naming the country whose efforts to censor literary material began in 213 B.C.: China. This authoritarian state has mastered the art of censoring material and making a profit whilst doing so, given its habit of releasing Western films and books with a special condition: that any and all references that place China or its allies in a bad light be removed.
Nine times out of ten, authors and directors will gladly cut out the portions Chinese censors find to be offensive, leaving the work that is released to the Chinese public incomplete and missing vital plot elements. Additionally, any authors, journalists, or directors who refuse to comply with these guidelines will be permanently banned from releasing work in the country.