China, Egypt and Iran top list of journalist jailers

China, Egypt and Iran top list of journalist jailers
Nearly 200 media workers are languishing behind bars, according to a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
2 min read
15 December, 2015
The press climate in Egypt is one of the worst in the world [AFP]

China, Egypt and Iran are the world's leading jailers of journalists, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published on Tuesday.

A quarter of the 199 journalists imprisoned worldwide were in China, as of December 1.

The Communist Party-run country under President Xi Jinping had 49 journalists behind bars, the highest number for China since the CPJ began its annual survey in 1990.

     In August, Sisi approved a law that included heavy fines for journalists who don't follow the government line

Egypt was second on the list with 23 journalists in prison, up from a dozen a year ago and zero in 2012.

"Perhaps nowhere has the climate for the press deteriorated more rapidly than in Egypt," the report says.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has used "national security" as a pretext to repress free press since ousting Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in a 2013 military coup, the report says.

In August, Sisi approved a law that included heavy fines for journalists who don't follow the government line.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian is among the 19 journalists that the CPJ lists as being behind bars in Iran.

The report also expresses special concern about Turkey, where the number of journalists jailed for doing their jobs doubled over the past year to 14.

Late last month, hundreds of protesters chanted "Free press cannot be silenced" after journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul were jailed on terror and espionage charges for their reports on alleged Turkish arms smuggling to Syria.

The journalists were investigated after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan filed a criminal complaint.

And in August, authorities detained three journalists reporting for Vice News in Turkey's restive Kurdish southeast.

One of them, Mohammed Rasool, is still in custody. Rasool, an Iraqi citizen, had worked as a news assistant for the AP and other media organisations.

Other countries with several journalists behind bars in 2015 include Azerbaijan with eight, Saudi Arabia and Syria with seven each, Vietnam with six, and Bahrain, Bangladesh and Myanmar with five apiece.

The CPJ report does not list journalists who are held by non-state groups such as the Islamic State group (IS) but estimates that at least 40 journalists are missing in the Middle East and North Africa, with many thought to be held by militant groups.

A separate report released on Tuesday by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders lists 153 journalists currently imprisoned around the world, along with 161 "citizen journalists".

Reporters Without Borders also said that 54 journalists were being held hostage, with IS holding 18 in Syria and Iraq and the Houthi rebel group in Yemen holding nine.