Writers Behind Bars: Latest Study Shows Increased Imprisonment of Journalists

Imprisonment of journalists has reached a record high, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported this week. According to a special report released Tuesday, CPJ had identified 232 individuals behind bars worldwide as of Dec. 1 – an increase of 53 compared to data from 2011.

Turkey, Iran and China lead the world with the highest number of imprisonments, all of which are based on vague anti-state laws used to silence journalists reporting dissenting political views and those of ethnic minorities.

“We are living in an age when anti-state charges and ‘terrorist’ labels have become the preferred means that governments use to intimidate, detain, and imprison journalists,” said CPJ executive director Joel Simon in a press statement. “Criminalizing probing coverage of inconvenient topics violates not only international law, but impedes the right of people around the world to gather, disseminate, and receive independent information.”

There are currently at least 132 journalists worldwide being held on anti-state charges including terrorism, treason and subversion. Turkey, the world’s worst jailer, is particularly well-known for its broad-sweeping anti-terror legislation that punishes journalists for reporting or publishing any information that may be interpreted as propagation of terrorist groups.

Eritrea and Syria make the top-five list, both known for holding journalists under harsh conditions in secret prisons, often times without charges or due process. Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia round out the top 10 list for the most journalists behind bars.

63 journalists across the world are being held in prisons without any publicly disclosed charge. An additional 67 journalists were also reported killed in 2012. The report did not mention arrests of journalists in the United States or other countries where journalists have been arrested and subsequently released in 2012.

More journalists were jailed in 2012 than any other year on record since C.P.J. began conducting worldwide surveys in 1990. The previous record was documented in 1996 with one hundred eighty-five journalists behind bars.

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