Like it or not freedom of the press is not available all around the world. In some places, the governments directly censor newspapers and other media whereas in some others — most notably, China — the authorities issue a set of directives and journalists and bloggers auto-censor themselves.
The sad truth is that censorship has been growing in recent years, and so has — unfortunately — the number and volume of fake news, making it very hard for ordinary citizens to differentiate right from wrong. Add complex issues to the mix and even the experts could be easily confused.
Nevertheless, what everyone needs is all-encompassing access to the media so they could at least get a second opinion on many matters. To that end, some folks are turning to VPNs to be able to access the Internet in its entirety. And that’s what these services all about – they will let you roam freely from all corners of the world, letting you bypass restrictions that could be imposed in high-censorship countries. Here are the best VPNs you could use for this purpose (and other things, as well):
- 5,000+ servers in the network
- Easy to use - install it and forget it
- One license is good for up to 6 devices
- Strict zero-logs policy
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Chrome extension is just a proxy
- You can't pay with PayPal
Its network includes more than 5,000 servers spread across 60 countries, which directly translates into faster speeds. NordVPN is also very secure, relying on the strong 256-bit encryption combined with secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec). But as a user, you get a seamless experience with all this technology "doing its thing" in the background.
NordVPN is well suited to pretty much every task you throw at it — whether it's accessing a banned site from some country that filters out the internet, torrenting, accessing streaming services, or just wanting to keep a low profile on the web. It also doesn't keep any logs.
We highly recommend NordVPN to anyone looking for reliable service.
- Good for both torrenting and streaming
- Works in China
- Solid network with servers in 60+ countries
- Easy to use apps on multiple platforms
- Live chat isn't always available
- Fairly pricey
Whether you need a VPN for watching Netflix shows or downloading files via BitTorrent, Astrill can help you out — all while keeping your identity under the radar. And this is especially true if you live or work in China when the company's stealth protocols will kick in to let you access all the popular sites that are by default blocked by the country's censors.
Astrill's apps are easy to use and available on all popular platforms. Nevertheless, they still manage to provide a host of advanced features tech-savvy folks are used to get. Highly recommended, again, especially if you're looking to bypass the Great Firewall of China.
- Feature-rich yet easy to use
- One of the best VPNs around
- Strong no-logging policy
- Reliable support you can reach 24/7
- Limited number of servers in Africa and the Middle East
- Kinda pricey
ExpressVPN has great desktop apps for Windows and Mac, mobile apps and browser extensions. Also, it is well suited for video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and others.
However, what makes it stand out is its ease of use. We can't emphasize this enough. One could tell a lot of time has been spent making sure even the advanced features are easily accessible. And we love it for that. Plus, let's not forget ExpressVPN's speed which tends to leave other services in the dust.
- Fast download and upload speeds
- Works with Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, etc.
- Great for torrenting
- Advanced privacy features (i.e. Tor over VPN)
- Relatively small number of servers
- There are no browser extensions
- Live chat support is not always available
Specifically, you can rely on PrivateVPN for both torrenting and streaming, without paying a premium. It is, in fact, one of the most affordable options in its league and we love it for that.
Customer support may not be on par with bigger players but it's not like you should experience many problems anyway. You will get the same level of security and privacy as with other services, and a single license will let you run PrivateVPN on up to 6 devices. Pretty cool.
- Works in China
- Many servers in Asia
- Strict zero-logs policy
- Advanced services like VyprVPN Cloud
- No browser extensions
- Torrenting could be better
It manages to bypass restrictions in high-censorship countries and elsewhere by relying on its proprietary Chameleon protocol, which can easily slide under the radar.
VyprVPN is also great for accessing video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and so on — delivering the true buffer-free experience every single time. It will also work with BitTorrent, and consequently - Kodi.
VyprVPN has a strict zero-logs policy. Period.
The high-censorship countries
Today, some governments in high-censorship countries have sophisticated tech departments which are, unfortunately, blocking parts of the web they don’t like. Here is the infamous list of top 7 countries with high media censorship, for which you’ll need a VPN to bypass their online restrictions:
1. North Korea
North Korea is a unique country in many ways. When it comes to all kinds of freedom, it is by far the most repressive place in the world. Nevertheless, you should be able to use a VPN when visiting Pyongyang if — and this could be tricky — you can get internet access in the first place. Instead of censoring the internet, the local government took an additional step and banned the entire internet for the majority of the population. Those who can surf the web will get a rather limited experience with little to no news websites loading up for them. And the same goes for social networks, YouTube, many popular web tools, and more.
China also has a special place on the list due to its tech-savvy censors. Users in China are free to access the internet but not all of it. For instance, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not available in the world’s most populous country and the same goes for many news websites. Moreover, because of the mentioned tech-savvy sensors, it is not easy to bypass what is commonly referred to as the Great Firewall of China. Not every VPN is up for the task and the government is putting an extraordinary effort to continuously shut down new VPN servers. Nevertheless, a few VPNs still work though you should install them on your device prior to landing in Beijing or wherever you happen to go.
3. Saudi Arabia
Another familiar name on the list, the Saudi regime is relying on lax laws created under the premise of anti-terrorism and cybercrime prevention. Said laws allow the government to jail whistleblowers, journalists, social media users, and bloggers. Perhaps the most infamous example of how things “work” in Saudi Arabia was the clandestine execution of Jamal Kashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, in October of 2018. So, if your travels lead you to Saudi Arabia, you should install a VPN before hitting the ground.
The situation is similar in Iran though there are slightly more freedoms here. While the government wants you to believe that the press is free in the country, the situation is very different on the ground. For instance, foreign press is allowed in Iran, but it is closely monitored by government agencies. Also, journalists that deviate from the official narrative could be stalked and harassed, with regular users turning to the internet for access to the real news. There, however, the situation is similarly complicated with the government censors blocking popular social media sites and streaming platforms. Nonetheless, you can bypass these restrictions with a good VPN.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus since 1994, instituted a law on mass media that gave the government a ton of power to regulate what people read, listen and watch in the former Soviet republic. Said law includes restrictions on the propagation of “fake news”, intentionally leaving a lot of room on the definition of what constitutes the news fake. And that grey area makes it possible for the country’s censors to forbid access to certain websites and services, and control the “offline media.”
Cuba is still relying on communist practices of watching every step its constituents make. So it extended information control from offline to online, making it hard to access services such as Facebook, Twitter and many news websites. Also, the government makes it difficult for the majority of citizens to connect to the internet. Even today, getting online is an expensive luxury for many citizens who, in turn, are forced to read the government’s press releases in newspapers, listen to them on the radio and watch on their TVs.
Another communist country on the list that aims to control all information its constituents have access to. All Vietnamese journalists must be approved by the (communist) party, whereas journalists from outside of Vietnam are required to be supervised by the government. This “combo” ensures what the party thinks will ensure the stability of its regime. Add occasional jailing of journalists to the mix and you get a place where people have to turn to VPNs in order to access real news and learn what’s going on in their own cities and towns.
The list, unfortunately, doesn’t end there with other “contenders” including Eritrea, Turkmenistan, and Equatorial Guinea, while the situation is changing for the worse in Turkey and Russia, as well.
Get a VPN for all your needs
People living, working in, or traveling to the countries mentioned above are advised to install a VPN app on all their devices just to be able to access the sites they got accustomed to. Also, a VPN will keep their connections that much more secure.
And that’s just one piece of the puzzle. A VPN has even more to offer and will have your back in many situations. For instance, it will:
- Protect your privacy from the government and big corporations
- Bypass restrictions imposed by the government or various organizations
- Change your IP address so you get unrestricted access to Netflix, Disney+, iPlayer, HULU, and other video streaming services
- Encrypt and protect private data from cybercriminals
The top contenders that check all these boxes include the following: