250 journalists in jails around the world: report
As many as 250 journalists are in jail because of their work, the latest annual report of Committee to Protect Journalists showed.
CNN’s Amy Woodyatt reported the news:
At least 250 journalists were in jail in relation to their work as of December 1, nonprofit group the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday, naming China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt the biggest jailers of journalists.
The group found that the majority were imprisoned on “anti-state charges.”
In a new report, the Committee to Protect Journalists found that the number of journalists charged with “false news” rose this year, with 30 in jail in 2019, compared with 28 last year and just one in 2012.
According to the committee, use of the “false news” charge has risen steeply. Earlier this year, Russia and Singapore both introduced controversial anti-fake news laws.
“For the fourth year in a row we are seeing record numbers of journalists imprisoned for their work,” Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the group, told CNN Business.
According to the report, China was the biggest jailer in 2019, with at least 48 journalists incarcerated, followed by Turkey (47), Saudi Arabia (26) and Egypt (26).
“This year, what stands out is that China has edged out Turkey as the leading jailer of journalists for the first time since 2015,” Radsch told CNN Business, adding that President Xi Jinping continues to “consolidate political control and institute tighter controls on the media.”
The report said authoritarianism, instability and protests in the Middle East led to a rise in the number of journalists locked up in the region, with Saudi Arabia on a par with Egypt as the third worst jailer worldwide, each with 26 imprisoned.
In Saudi Arabia, no charges have been disclosed against 18 of the journalists behind bars, and CPJ expressed concern over reports of “beating, burning and starving political prisoners, including four journalists.”
Several of the arrests in Egypt came ahead of protests against corruption in September, which included calls for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to resign.
Campaigners say the global total of 250 remains disturbingly high even if it is slightly below the 255 counted in 2018 and the record 273 in 2016.
“CPJ believes that journalists should not be imprisoned for doing their jobs,” the group said in its report.
It cited the case of Chinese freelance journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin, arrested in October after writing about marching with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
It also highlighted the case Egyptian economics reporter Mohammad Mosaed, detained after tweeting during an internet shutdown intended to suppress news of protests against high fuel prices.
VOA’s Peter Cobus noted:
This year’s census marks the first time since 2015 that Turkey did not rank as the world’s largest jailer, in part because Ankara, “having stamped out virtually all independent reporting, released journalists awaiting trial or appeal.”
China — second only to Turkey as one of the world’s most repressive media environments for years — has 47 journalists in prison, the same number as it did in 2018, which largely resulted from reporters attempting to document large-scale persecution of the predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjiang.
“In one recent Chinese case, Sophia Huang Xueqin, a freelancer who formerly worked as an investigative reporter at Chinese outlets, was arrested in October shortly after describing on her blog what it was like to march with the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong,” the report states.
Saudi Arabia, “where the number of journalists jailed has risen steadily since 2011,” the report states, is currently holding 26 reporters behind bars amid allegations of torture.