China has imprisoned at least 48 journalists so far in 2019, more than any other country, displacing Turkey as the most oppressive place for the profession, a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said.
The report, released on Wednesday, noted that the number has “steadily increased since President Xi Jinping consolidated political control” in the Communist-ruled country.
“A crackdown in Xinjiang province – where a million members of [the] Muslim ethnic group have been sent to internment camps – has led to the arrests of dozens of journalists, including some apparently jailed for journalistic activity years earlier,” the report said.
At least 250 journalists have been imprisoned for their work across the world as of December 1. According to the CPJ, a majority of jailed journalists faced anti-state charges.
However, the number of them charged with “fake news” rose to 30, compared with 28 last year, and one in 2012. Earlier this year, Russia and Singapore also introduced controversial anti-fake news laws.
Turkey, the second-worst country on the list, closed down more than 100 news outlets and imprisoned 47 journalists in 2019.
Instability and recent protests in the Middle East also led to a rise in the number of journalists jailed in the region.
Saudi Arabia arrested 26 journalists in 2019, putting it at par with Egypt as the world’s third-worst jailer.
In Saudi Arabia, no charges have been disclosed in 18 of the cases, the CPJ report said. The watchdog said it is concerned over reports of “beating, burning and starving political prisoners, including four journalists”.
In Asia, Vietnam was listed as the second-worst country after China, with 12 journalists jailed, while in the Americas, three journalists were put behind bars.
“The record number of journalists jailed for their work in recent years is a cause for alarm,” said Courtney Radsch, CPJ’s advocacy director. “Each one represents a case of censorship, not to mention a human being deprived of their rights.”
CPJ just released its 2019 prison census. On December 1, at least 250 journalists were behind bars worldwide. These are the worst jailers and how many journalists they have jailed:
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) December 11, 2019