For the fourth consecutive year, the number of journalists imprisoned for their work in 2019 reached at least 250, with China and Turkey leading the list of principle jailers in the world, the Committee to Protect Journalists found.
In its annual global survey, the Committee to Protect Journalists found at least 250 journalists in jail in relation to their work, compared with an adjusted 255 a year earlier.98% of which are local journalists. The highest number of journalists imprisoned in any year since CPJ began keeping track is 273 in 2016. After China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, the worst jailers are Eritrea, Vietnam, and Iran.
President Xi Jinping further tightened the control of the state through the press in China, where 48 journalists are behind bars. Turkey, after having eliminated virtually all reports and independent criticism by closing more than 100 means of communication and filing terrorism-related charges against many of its employees, had 47 journalists jailed in 2019. Dozens of journalists not currently jailed in Turkey are still facing trial or appeal and could yet be sentenced to prison, while others have been sentenced in absentia and face arrest if they return to the country.
“The imprisonment of a single journalist is a terrible injustice that has far-reaching consequences for families, friends and colleagues,” said Joel Simon, executive director of CPJ. “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.”
Authoritarianism, instability and protests in the Middle East led to an increase 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 once again the most likely dent to take journalists to jail, followed by human rights and corruption. While the majority of jailed journalists worldwide face anti-state charges, the number of accused of “fake news” increased to 30; in 2012 the CPJ found only one journalist worldwide facing the accusation. Repressive countries such as Russia and Singapore have enacted laws that criminalize the publication of “false news” in the last year.
CPJ’s list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at 12:01 a.m. on December 1, 2019. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at https://cpj.org. Journalists remain on CPJ’s list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody.