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Free Press Report: China, Egypt Lead World in Jailing Journalists

  • Ken Bredemeier

Journalists walk past a poster showing jailed Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abou-Zeid, known by his nickname Shawkan at the press syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 12, 2015. He's been locked up without any charges for covering the Rabaa massacre in Cairo, when police and army officers shot and killed hundreds of protesters on Aug. 14, 2013.

Journalists walk past a poster showing jailed Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abou-Zeid, known by his nickname Shawkan at the press syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 12, 2015. He's been locked up without any charges for covering the Rabaa massacre in Cairo, when police and army officers shot and killed hundreds of protesters on Aug. 14, 2013.

A global freedom of press advocacy group says that China and Egypt lead the world in jailing journalists, as Beijing and Cairo attempt to silence dissent and limit stories they view as anti-government.

In all, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported (full report at https://cpj.org/x/666b) Tuesday that 199 journalists were jailed in 28 countries throughout the world as of December 1, down from 221 a year ago.

The New York-based group said China leads the list in the number of jailed journalists for the second year in a row, imprisoning 49, in part because of the sensitivity about reporting on the weakening of the Chinese economy.

The group cited the case of Wang Xiaolu, a reporter for a Beijing-based business magazine who was jailed after being accused of "fabricating and spreading false information" about securities trading. He later appeared on television saying that he regretted writing the story and pleading for leniency, even as it remained unclear whether he had been formally charged with a crime.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said China's attempt to silence critics has reached the United States, with the jailing in China of three brothers of Washington-based Uighur journalist Shohret Hoshur, who has reported critically on China's treatment of his minority while working for U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia.

In this photo provided by el-Taweel family, Aug. 7, 2015, jailed Egyptian photographer Esraa el-Taweel poses for a photo in Egypt's Dahab beach in 2015.

In this photo provided by el-Taweel family, Aug. 7, 2015, jailed Egyptian photographer Esraa el-Taweel poses for a photo in Egypt's Dahab beach in 2015.

The journalists' group said Cairo is holding 23 journalists as President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi "continues to use the pretext of national security to clamp down on dissent." As recently as 2012, there were no journalists jailed for their work in Egypt.

The committee said Iran favors the use of anti-state charges in jailing journalists, although the number Tehran is holding fell to 19 this year from 30 in 2014. Among those held is Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post correspondent who state media said has been been convicted of espionage and sentenced, although no details have been released about his imprisonment that now has extended for more than 500 days.

FILE - Jason Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, are shown at a political campaign event in Tehran, Iran, April 11, 2013.

FILE - Jason Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, are shown at a political campaign event in Tehran, Iran, April 11, 2013.

The free press group called Eritrea "the world's worst abuser of due process" in jailing 17 journalists, with none of them ever publicly charged with a crime or brought before a court for trial.

The press freedom group says Turkey is holding 14 journalists, including two accused of espionage after publishing reports that Ankara intelligence operatives had transferred weapons to Syria under the guise of humanitarian aid.

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