CPJ Report: Increase in Number of Jailed Journalists Fueled by Internet

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By: E&P Staff

A new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists has found that the rise in Internet journalism has fueled an increase in the number of journalists imprisoned around the world. According to the group’s new census, 134 journalists are now in prison worldwide, and one in three jailed journalists is now a blogger, online editor or Web-based reporter.

The annual study found that China, Cuba, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are currently the top four jailers among the 24 nations who imprison journalists. The most common charges against journalists are allegations of “antistate” crimes such as subversion, divulging state secrets, and acting against the interests of the state. The report found that 84 journalists are currently in prison for such charges, with the Chinese, Cuban, and Ethiopian governments leading the way. China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists for the eigth consecutive year, with 31 in custody.

The largest professional category in the study continues to be print journalists, with 67 cases of imprisonment this year, but the second largest category is now that of online journalists, with 49 cases. The number of Web-based journalists imprisoned has increased every year since the study recorded the first case in 1997. U.S. video blogger Joshua Wolf is among those counted in the survey.

“We’re at a crucial juncture in the fight for press freedom because authoritarian states have made the Internet a major front in their effort to control information,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement. “China is challenging the notion that the Internet is impossible to control or censor, and if it succeeds there will be far-ranging implications, not only for the medium but for press freedom all over the world.”

The study also found an increase in the number of journalists held without charges or due process. There are currently 20 such cases, more than half of which are in Eritrea, which detains journalists in secret locations, withholding basic information about their well-being. The united States has jailed two journalists in this way: Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, and Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj.

“In Cuba and in China, journalists are often jailed after summary trials and held in miserable conditions far from their families. But the cruelty and injustice of imprisonment is compounded where there is zero due process and journalists slip into oblivion. In Eritrea, the worst abuser in this regard, there is no check on authority and it is unclear whether some jailed journalists are even alive,” Simon added in the written statement.

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