WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and China were the largest imprisoners of journalists during 2018 — responsible for more than half of the journalists behind bars on the planet.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said, in a report release Thursday, that for the third consecutive year 251 or more journalists are jailed around the world “suggesting the authoritarian approach to critical news coverage is more than a temporary spike.”
Fresh waves of repression in China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia “sustained the global crackdown on press freedom” the CPJ said, with Turkey holding on to its spot as “the world’s worst jailer of journalists.”
The majority of those imprisoned globally–70 percent–are facing anti-state charges, usually accused of being a member of an alleged terrorist group, CPJ said. The number imprisoned on charges of false news rose to 28 globally, up from nine percent in 2016, the report said.
Among the 47 journalists jailed in China, the majority underscore the latest wave of persecution of the Uighur ethnic minority in the Xinjiang region in western China, CPJ said.
Saudi Arabia, accused in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, increased pressure on journalists in the kingdom with at least 16 journalist in jail. “The prisoners include four female journalists who wrote about women’s rights in the kingdom, including the ban on women driving that was lifted in June,” the report said.
In Turkey, where Khashoggi was murderd, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has “continued to jail more journalists than any other on the planet.
“CPJ found at least 68 journalists jailed for their work in Turkey, which is slightly lower than previous years. In the course of the year, dozens more have been jailed or released, as prosecutors continue to seek arrest warrants and apply new charges, and courts ordered some journalists released pending trial and acquitted others. For the third consecutive year, every journalist imprisoned in Turkey is facing anti-state charges,” the report said.
The fifth highest jailer is Eritrea, with 16 journalists behind bars, CPJ said.
“Eritrea continues to imprison more journalists than any country in sub-Saharan Africa; Cameroon is next with seven. Most of the journalists imprisoned in Eritrea have been in custody since President Isaias Afwerki abruptly shut down the independent media in 2001, and it is unclear whether they are all alive,” the report said.
The report also said that “Vietnam and Azerbaijan also imprisoned journalists in the double digits, with 11 and 10 jailed, respectively. However in Uzbekistan, CPJ found no journalists in jail for the first time in two decades.”
Among the other findings: “thirteen percent, or 33, of the jailed journalists are female, up from 8 percent last year. Politics is the riskiest beat, followed by human rights. Ninety-eight percent of jailed journalists are locals imprisoned by their own governments. Freelancers accounted for 30 percent of jailed journalists,” the report said.
“CPJ believes that journalists should not be imprisoned for doing their jobs,” the report said. “In the past year, CPJ advocacy helped lead to the early release of at least 79 imprisoned journalists worldwide.”