China has overtaken Turkey to become the worst country to work as a journalist, the Committee to Protect Journalists found, after 48 reporters were in prison there this year as authorities tighten their grip on news outlets.
- The press advocacy group said the number of journalists being imprisoned this year remained near “record highs” with the Middle East and parts of Asia among the worst to crack down on members of the press, amid increasing protests and authoritarianism.
- China’s premier Xi Jinping has been tightening his grip of media freedoms, particularly amid protests in Hong Kong. Freelance investigative reporter Sophia Huang Xueqin was imprisoned after writing about her experience marching with pro-democracy protesters in the territory, the CPJ said.
- Dozens of journalists have also been jailed amid a crackdown on China’s Xinjiang province, where 1 million Uighur muslims are being detained by the authorities. This includes journalists working for the Uighur-run Kashgar Publishing House, who were arrested for work done years earlier.
- Turkey, which topped the list in 2018 but fell to second this year, saw the number of journalists in prison drop from 68 to 47, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repressed independent journalism and closed down more than 100 news outlets.
- Most journalists who are charged with a crime are accused of “anti-state” activity, while the number of “false news” charges this year is 30, up from 28 last year, the CPJ said.
- The list is a snapshot of journalists in prisoned as of December 1, 2019.
Key background: The CPJ, which has been tracking the imprisonment of journalists since the 1990s, undertakes an annual survey of imprisoned journalists around the world. More than 250 journalists were in prison this year. The worst year was 2016, with the CPJ counting 273 reporters locked up around the world in relation to their work. The number of journalists missing, imprisoned or killed has been generally on the rise since 2000.
Other countries that cracked down heavily on journalists this year include:
- Saudi Arabia, where 26 journalists were in jail, 18 of them without charges. The UN and U.S. intelligence services have held Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
- Egypt, which held 26 journalists in jail for their work this year. Last month, security forces targeted the country’s last independent news outlet and detained three of its editors.
- In Eritrea, 16 journalists are behind bars. Some 39 journalists are imprisoned across Africa, the CPJ reports.
- Vietnam, where 12 are jailed, making the country the second-worst jailer in Asia for reporters.
- In Iran, there are 11, up from 2018. This includes economic journalist Mohammad Mossaed, who was arrested after tweeting during an internet blackout in the country that aimed to suppress news of fuel protests getting out.
- Surprising fact: Norway was ranked this year as the best country for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders, another press advocacy group that measures the safest places in the world to be a journalist through its Press Freedom index.