An unprecedented number of journalists—232—are currently behind bars around the world, a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) media watchdog said Tuesday.
The journalists are being held behind bars in 27 countries, often on trumped-up charges of terrorism and vague anti-state laws. The organization says that the total number of journalists currently imprisoned is the highest since it started counting in 1990.
The total number of journalists currently jailed is the highest since it began monitoring the number of reporters behind bars in 1990.
The CPJ said the worst offender is Turkey, which currently has at least 49 journalists and media workers imprisoned. Many of the jailed journalists are Kurds who covered stories relating to Turkey’s conflict with separatist Kurdish rebels.
“Broadly worded anti-terror and penal code statutes have allowed Turkish authorities to conflate the coverage of banned groups and the investigation of sensitive topics with outright terrorism or other anti-state activity,” the CPJ said in the report.
China and Iran also rank among the worst offenders, each having at least 77 media workers jailed, according to the group.
China “has made extensive use of anti-state charges to jail online writers expressing dissident political views and journalists covering ethnic minority groups,” the CPJ said.
“Journalists who report on areas deemed ‘most sensitive’ by the state … are most vulnerable,” Phelim Kine, the deputy director Asia Division at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Syria, Eritrea, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and Saudi Arabia have also placed numerous journalists behind bars and comprise the remainder of the world’s 10 worst jailers of media workers, according to the committee.
Eritrea was described by the group as the “worst abuser of due process” because it has never publicly charged any of the detained journalists with a crime or taken them to court.
And during the 20-monthlong ongoing conflict in Syria, the regime has nabbed around 15 journalists, including U.S.-based freelance reporter Austin Tice, the committee said. Tice had covered the Syrian civil war for Al-Jazeera, the Washington Post, and other publications.
“None of the detainees have been charged with a crime, and the authorities have been unwilling to account for the detainees’ whereabouts or well-being,” the CPJ said.
Vietnam has 14 journalists in prison; Communist authorities escalated a crackdown on the press and online blogs. Many have been jailed for covering sensitive topics related to China and Catholics, according to the CPJ.
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