For the fourth consecutive year, the number of journalists imprisoned globally for their reporting reached at least 250 annually with 98 per cent of them being local journalists, according to a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
China and Turkey top the list of the world’s leading jailers of journalists followed by Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, Eritrea, Vietnam, and Iran.
The report says as of December 1, 2019, President Xi Jinping further tightened the state’s iron grip on the press in China, with 48 journalists sent behind bars. Turkey, on the other hand-stamped out virtually all independent reporting and criticism by closing down more than 100 news outlets and lodging terror-related charges against many of their staff. It jailed 47 journalists in 2019 with dozens more still facing trial or having been sentenced to jail and are free on appeal.
Speaking on the findings, Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director said: “The imprisonment of a single journalist is a terrible injustice that has far-reaching consequences for families, friends, and colleagues. But the imprisonment of hundreds of journalists — year after year — is a threat to the global information system on which we all depend. Repressive governments are using these cruel tactics to deprive their own societies and the entire world of essential information.”
The report finds that authoritarianism, instability, and protests in the Middle East led to a rise in the number of journalists locked up in the region — particularly in Saudi Arabia, which jumped to 26 behind bars in 2019, putting it on par with Egypt as the third worst jailer worldwide.
Politics was again cited as the beat most likely to land journalists in jail, followed by human rights and corruption.
The report shows that while the majority of journalists imprisoned worldwide face anti-state charges, the number charged with “false news” rose to 30; in 2012, CPJ found only one journalist worldwide facing the allegation. In 2019, repressive countries including Russia and Singapore enacted laws criminalizing the publication of “fake news”.
CPJ’s list is a snapshot of journalists incarcerated as at 12:01 a.m. on December 1, 2019 and does not include the many journalists who were imprisoned and released throughout the year.
CPJ hopes to launch the report but it has been highlighting individual cases of imprisoned journalists through the #FreeThePress campaign on Instagram.
The report is available online at https://cpj.org/reports/2019/12/journalists-jailed-china-turkey-saudi-arabia-egypt.php.