Record year for jailed journalists sees Iran and Turkey leading pack

Israel is holding three reporters behind bars, all Palestinians, report says

Prison bars (photo credit: CC BY libertygrace0, Flickr)
Prison bars (photo credit: CC BY libertygrace0, Flickr)

NEW YORK  — The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report Tuesday that a record-number 232 journalists are imprisoned worldwide and that Turkey has the highest number with 49 journalists behind bars.

The total is 53 more than the tally last year and is the highest number since the New York-based organization began conducting worldwide surveys in 1990.

Israel currently holds three journalist prisoners, all of whom are Palestinians who worked in the West Bank or Gaza Strip and were deemed a security threat, according to the report.

The census of journalists behind bars on December 1 found that anti-state charges such as terrorism, treason and subversion were the most common brought against journalists in 2012. At least 132 journalists are being held around the world on such charges, CPJ said.

The group said that broadly worded anti-terror laws have allowed Turkish authorities to equate coverage of banned groups with terrorism.

Mehmet Ali Birand, a top editor with the Istanbul-based station Kanal D, said the Turkish government “does not differentiate between these two major things: freedom of expression and terrorism.”

The Turkish embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CPJ said the second-worst jailer of the press is Iran, with 45 behind bars. The group cited news reports that said Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti was arrested in October and died after being beaten and hung by his limbs from the ceiling.

China was third with 32 journalists behind bars, 19 of them Tibetans or Uighurs imprisoned for documenting ethnic tensions, CPJ said.

“Journalists who report on areas deemed ‘most sensitive’ by the state — China’s troubled ethnic regions of Tibet and Xinjiang — are most vulnerable,” said Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.

The overwhelming majority of the 232 detainees are local journalists being held by their own governments. Just three foreign journalists were on the list.

CPJ said the list does not include journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year, nor does it include journalists abducted by non-state entities such as criminal gangs or militant groups.

Most Popular
read more: