New York, December 8, 2010¡ªChina's brutal suppression of ethnic journalism and Iran's sustained crackdown on critical voices have pushed the number of journalists imprisoned worldwide to its highest level since 1996, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a new report. In its 2010 census of imprisoned journalists, CPJ identified 145 reporters, editors, and photojournalists behind bars on December 1, an increase of nine from the 2009 tally.
China's consistent position as a world leader in jailing journalists has earned it the ignominious distinction of being at the top of CPJ's list of imprisoned journalists for almost all of the past decade. This year, 25 of the 34 journalists behind bars in China are Internet-based. "Despite calls to do so even from within the Communist Party, the government of Hu Jintao shows no signs of reforming its anti-media policies, and seems determined to defy the spread of information freedom brought by the Internet," says Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator.
With 34 imprisoned journalists apiece, China and Iran are responsible for nearly half of the worldwide total. Eritrea with 17, Burma with 13, and Uzbekistan with six, round out the five worst jailers from among the 28 nations that imprison journalists. At least 64 freelance journalists were behind bars worldwide, a figure consistent with the 2009 census.
Detailed accounts of each imprisoned journalist are available here.
"The trend in China is disturbingly clear: Dissident writers, like Nobel prize awardee Liu Xiaobo, and minority Tibetans and Uighurs, are increasingly arrested for expressing their viewpoints ¨C and information on their plight is stifled by the government," says Madeline Earp, CPJ Asia program's senior researcher.
Globally, journalists are most commonly held on antistate charges (72 cases) or even no charge at all (34 cases). Both China and Iran rely heavily on the use of vague antistate charges. But CPJ found that the abusive application of antistate charges¡ªsuch as treason, subversion, or acting against national interests¡ªoccurs worldwide and constitutes the single greatest cause of journalist imprisonments.
CPJ's annual census is a snapshot of those incarcerated at midnight on December 1, 2010. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at www.cpj.org. Journalists who either disappear or are abducted by nonstate entities such as criminal gangs or militant groups are not included on the prison census. Their cases are classified as "missing" or "abducted."