Number of journalists imprisoned worldwide hits new record: RSF

Iran’s protest crackdown pushes number of jailed journalists across the world to a record high of 533 in 2022, says the watchdog.

Reuters journalist Wa Lone, center, talks to journalists as they leave the court.
RSF says journalism in Myanmar is a 'criminal offence' [File: Thein Zaw/AP]

The number of journalists imprisoned around the world has hit a new record, according to an annual tally by press freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres, or RSF).

A total of 533 media professionals were imprisoned in 2022, up from 488 last year, the RSF’s Annual Press Freedom Review published on Wednesday found.

“More than a quarter of them were imprisoned during the year,” said the Paris-based watchdog which has been publishing the annual tally since 1995.

More than half are jailed in just five countries: China, which remains “the world’s biggest jailer of journalists” with 110, followed by Myanmar (62), Iran (47), Vietnam (39) and Belarus (31).

Iran’s protest crackdown has helped push the number of jailed journalists worldwide to a record high, the organisation found.

Among the 47 journalists currently in prison in Iran, 34 have been arrested since protests broke out in September over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for breaching the country’s strict dress code.

Iran – the only country that was not part of the list last year – is one of three countries with the most media prisoners, alongside China and Myanmar.

China has the most media workers in jail, according to the RSF. Including Hong Kong, 110 media workers are in detention there.

In Myanmar, journalism is “effectively a criminal offence” since the military coup in 2021, with 62 journalists currently imprisoned, the RSF said.

Eighteen media workers, including eight from Ukraine, are currently imprisoned in Russia, where all independent media have virtually been banned, it said.

“Dictatorial and authoritarian regimes are filling their prisons faster than ever by jailing journalists,” said Christophe Deloire, RSF secretary-general, in a statement.

Only a little more than one-third of the imprisoned media workers across the world have been convicted. The remaining two-thirds are in prison without trial.

“Some of them have been waiting for their trial for more than 20 years,” the RSF said.

Fifty-seven journalists were killed, due in part to the war in Ukraine, up from 48 and 50 in the last two years respectively.

Eight journalists have been killed reporting on the war, five of them from non-combatant countries.

The RSF said nearly 80 percent of media professionals killed around the world in 2022 were “deliberately targeted in connection with their work or the stories they were covering”, such as organised crime and corruption cases.

The number of female journalists in prison is also at an all-time high worldwide, rising from 60 to 78 since 2021, largely due to greater numbers entering the profession.

The NGO awarded its Prize for Courage on Monday to Iranian journalist Narges Mohammadi, who has been repeatedly imprisoned over the past decade.

Three-quarters of jailed journalists are concentrated in Asia and the Middle East, said the RSF.

Deloire said the new record “confirms the pressing and urgent need to resist these unscrupulous governments and to extend our active solidarity to all those who embody the ideal of journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies