The communist regime in China, for the third year in a row, topped a global ranking of countries that imprison journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
At least 50 media workers are known to be jailed in China as of Dec. 1, the New York-based advocacy group said in its annual report released on Dec. 9. Last year, the number was 48
“Imprisoning journalists for reporting the news is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime,” Joel Simon, executive director of the group, said in a statement.
CPJ mentioned the list didn’t include non-reporters who had “tenuous associations with the media,” such as the 11 Chinese residents jailed after supplying materials to the Chinese-language Epoch Times.
The 11, most of them in their 20s, were indicted in April for sending photos and information about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to the publication. Those photos revealed what was happening in Beijing during its initial lockdown, but challenged the narrative pushed by the communist regime.
Last July, the 11 were arrested for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a charge the regime often uses to target dissidents, according to their lawyer. But as they stood trial in October, the group faced a charge relating to their faith—Falun Gong—a spiritual practice that has been severely persecuted by the regime for more than two decades.
The CPJ noted on Thursday that their detention is “an ominous indicator of China’s efforts to stifle media discourse.”
While the regime’s “relentless incarceration of journalists is not new,” this is the first time CPJ has included in its list journalists being held in Hong Kong. Researchers attributed the result to the Beijing-imposed national security law in June 2020, which punishes anything the communist regime deems as subversion, secession, terrorism, or colluding with foreign forces.
The highest-profile target is media tycoon Jimmy Lai. The founder of the now-closed pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily is currently serving jail time for taking part in pro-democracy protests in 2019. On Dec. 9, Lai was also convicted for participating in a 2020 vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. He faces a maximum of five years in prison for this office. The media mogul also faces separate charges under the national security law.
The CPJ noted that the number of jailed journalists around the world hit a new high, with 293 in prison in 2021, up from 280 the year before.
“This is the sixth year in a row that CPJ has documented record numbers of journalists imprisoned around the world,” Simon said in the statement. “The number reflects two inextricable challenges—governments are determined to control and manage information, and they are increasingly brazen in their efforts to do so.”
Burma (also known as Myanmar) came in behind the Chinese regime, with 26 reporters jailed, then Egypt, with 25 in custody.
The association documented The Epoch Times’s journalist in Nigeria, Luka Binniyat, who was arrested in November for reporting on the persecution of Christians in the country.
As of Dec. 1, the group counted 24 journalists killed worldwide this year for their work.
Mexico “remained the Western hemisphere’s deadliest country for journalists, with three murdered for their reporting and the motives for six other killings under investigation,” said the CPJ.