News / Africa

Record Number of Journalists Are Jailed in 2012

Turkey tops CPJ list with 49 jailed journalists.
Turkey tops CPJ list with 49 jailed journalists.

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Joe DeCapua
A record number of journalists were imprisoned in 2012, and there are concerns it could be even worse in the New Year. The Committee to Protect Journalists has released its annual report listing the top jailers of members of the media.


CPJ’s Mohamed Keita says attacks on the press have steadily grown.

“232 journalists were jailed in 27 nations around the world as of December 1st, 2012, surpassing the 1996 record of 185. And out of all these journalists, only three were international journalists. The vast majority were local journalists,” he said.

Keita called it an “alarming trend” that began with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“In our analysis, we’ve seen that terrorism, treason and subversion were the most common charges and allegations used by governments, such as Turkey, Iran, China to jail journalists. Anti-state charges and terrorist labels have just become the preferred means that many governments use to intimidate and detain journalists and critical reporters,” he said.

The CPJ reported Turkey as the top offender with 49 imprisoned journalists, followed by Iran with 45 and China with 32. Eritrea, Syria, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan round out the top 10.

Keita said, “In Africa, Ethiopia is a prime example of a nation that is using a very vaguely worded anti-terrorism law to jail and prosecute critical journalists and dissidents.”

Ethiopia is eighth on the list with six imprisoned journalists. Its neighbor, Eritrea, has jailed 28 journalists.

“Eritrea shares the distinction with Syria as the two nations in the world with the most inhuman treatment of journalists in prison – in that the journalists are thrown in jail without charge, without access to courts, without access to their families or the outside world,” he said.

In effect, he said, they simply disappear. The Committee to Protect Journalists official said international pressure needs to be placed on some governments to end their assault on the media. The most important thing, added Keita, is to ensure these journalists are not forgotten.

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