A total of 232 journalists, including writers, editors and photographers, are currently languishing in prisons around the world, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has revealed, fingering Turkey (49), Iran (45) and China (32) as the world’s top countries jailing media practitioners in 2012.
The number represents an increase of 53, compared to the 2011 figures, CPJ said in its latest report.
The following seven countries round up the list of top 10 media jailer countries in the world as indicated in the report:
• Eritrea, 28
• Syria, 15
• Vietnam, 14
• Azerbaijan, 9
• Ethiopia, 6
• Saudi Arabia, 4
• Uzbekistan, 4.
The trend was primarily driven by terrorism and other anti-state charges levied against critical reporters and editorsthe report claimed.
“None of the journalists in jail in either country have been publicly charged with a crime or brought before a court or trial. In line with findings over the past five years, a little more than half (118) of those held globally were online journalists and more than a third were freelancers,” the report said.
CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said: “We are living in an age when anti-state charges and ‘terrorist’ labels have become the preferred means that governments use to intimidate, detain, and imprison journalists.”
Simon added: “Criminalising probing coverage of inconvenient topics violates not only international law, but impedes he right of people around the world to gather, disseminate, and receive independent information.”
The report deplores Turkey, Iran and China’s attitude for using anti-state charges in retaliation for critical coverage to jail journalists.
This pattern is present in most of the countries in the census. In Turkey, the world’s worst jailer, authorities held dozens of Kurdish reporters and editors on terror-related charges and other journalists for allegedly plotting against the government, the CPJ report said.
Following an extensive case-by-case review in 2012, CPJ confirmed journalism-related reasons in numerous cases previously unlisted by the organisation, thus significantly raising the country’s total.
“With a record number of journalists imprisoned around the world, the time has come to speak out,” said Simon.
“We must fight back against governments seeking to cloak their repressive tactics under the banner of fighting terrorism, we must push for broad legislative changes in countries where critical journalism is being criminalised.”