Incarceration of Journalists Hits All-Time High Amid ‘Growing Intolerance of Independent Reporting’

Common Dreams – By Kenny Stancil – December 9, 2021

“This is the sixth year in a row that CPJ has documented record numbers of journalists imprisoned around the world.” CPJ executive director Joel Simon said in a statement.

Nearly 300 journalists are currently languishing behind bars around the globe—an all-time high in recorded history—according to a new report published Thursday by the Committee to Protect Journalists, which described 2021 as “an especially bleak year for defenders of press freedom.”

The U.S.-based nonprofit’s annual prison census found that 293 reporters were incarcerated worldwide as of December 1, up from the previous record-high of 280 last year.

“The number reflects two inextricable challenges—governments are determined to control and manage information, and they are increasingly brazen in their efforts to do so,” said Simon, who added that “imprisoning journalists for reporting the news is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”

According to CPJ, “China remains the world’s worst jailer of journalists for the third year in a row, with 50 behind bars. Myanmar soared to the second slot after the media crackdown that followed its February 1 military coup. Egypt, Vietnam, and Belarus, respectively, rounded out the top five.”

“No journalists were jailed in North America at the time of the census deadline,” CPJ noted. “However, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a partner of CPJ, recorded 56 arrests and detentions of journalists across the U.S. during 2021. Eighty-six percent occurred during protests.”

While “the reasons for the relentless climb in the numbers of detained journalists… differ between countries,” the group pointed out, “all reflect a stark trend: a growing intolerance of independent reporting.”

“Emboldened autocrats are increasingly ignoring due process and flouting international norms to keep themselves in power,” CPJ noted. “In a world preoccupied with Covid-19 and trying to prioritize issues like climate change, repressive governments are clearly aware that public outrage at human rights abuses is blunted and democratic governments have less appetite for political or economic retaliation.”

Although some of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, released several reporters in 2021, CPJ argued that “it would be naïve to see lower prisoner numbers as a sign of a change of heart toward the press.”

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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