With at least 250 journalists hauled to jails for the fourth consecutive year, China and Turkey topped the list, followed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea, Vietnam and Iran, the CPJ said in a report released yesterday.
AFP/Fred Dufour
China, Turkey world’s leading jailers of journalists — report
Artemio Dumlao (The Philippine Star) - December 12, 2019 - 12:00am

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — China and Turkey topped the list of countries that keep journalists in jail, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) revealed yesterday, a day after the worldwide commemoration of International Human Rights Day.

With at least 250 journalists hauled to jails for the fourth consecutive year, China and Turkey topped the list, followed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea, Vietnam and Iran, the CPJ said in a report released yesterday.

“The imprisonment of a single journalist is a terrible injustice that has far-reaching consequences for families, friends and colleagues,” CPJ executive director Joel Simon was quoted in the report as saying.

“But the imprisonment of hundreds of journalists – year after year – is a threat to the global information system on which we all depend,” Simon added.

On the one hand, the CPJ cited Chinese President Xi Jinping who, according to the press freedom watchdog, “further tightened the state’s iron grip on the press in China, where 48 journalists are behind bars.”

On the other hand, Turkey, having 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, had 47 imprisoned journalists in 2019.

Dozens more in Turkey still face trial or have been sentenced to jail and are free on appeal, according to Simon.

Repressive governments are using these cruel tactics to deprive their societies and the entire world of essential information, the CPJ noted.

It added that authoritarianism, instability and protests in the Middle East have led to a rise in the number of journalists locked up in the region – particularly in Saudi Arabia, which jumped to 26 jailed in 2019, putting it on par with Egypt as the third worst jailer worldwide.

The CPJ blamed politics as “the beat most likely to land journalists in jail,” followed by human rights and corruption.

A majority of journalists imprisoned worldwide, however, face anti-state charges, with the number charged with “false news” having risen to 30, the report said.

In 2012, the CPJ found only one journalist worldwide facing an allegation of writing “fake news.”

Interestingly, the CPJ noted that “repressive” countries, including Russia and Singapore, have enacted laws criminalizing the publication of “fake news” in 2018.

The CPJ explained that its list is a snapshot of those incarcerated as of 12:01 a.m. last Dec. 1, while it does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year.

Simon said journalists remain on CPJ’s list until it determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody.

COMMEMORATION OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY JOURNALIST
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