Jailed Journalists at Record High, India and Pak Included: Report

Pattern reflects a dismal failure to address a global crisis in freedom of press: Committee to Protect Journalists

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(This article was originally published on 13 December 2017. It is being republished to mark the World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.)

The number of journalists imprisoned for their work hit a new high in 2017 for the second year in a row. More than half the these journalists are from Turkey, China and Egypt, as per a report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday, 13 December.

The report by the New York-based non-profit also names India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, adding that the pattern reflects a dismal failure by the international community to address a global crisis in freedom of the press.


In its annual prison census, CPJ found 262 journalists were behind bars around the world for doing their work – a new record after a historical high of 259 last year.

The arrest of Indian journalists Kamran Yousuf and Vinod Verma figured on the list. Yousuf, a 23-year-old freelance photojournalist and regular contributor to Greater Kashmir, was arrested by the NIA on charges of stone-pelting in September. Verma was arrested in Ghaziabad in October for allegedly blackmailing a Chhattisgarh BJP leader with a ‘sex CD’. Verma denied the charge and said he was being framed.

India ranks 13th on CPJ's Global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free. In 2017, India ranked at an abysmal low of 136 in the World Press Freedom Index.

Among other countries in South Asia, the CPJ list features two jailed journalists from Pakistan, four in Bangladesh.


Trump "Cozied up to Strongmen" and Done Little for Human Rights: CPJ

US President Donald Trump’s “nationalistic rhetoric, fixation on Islamic extremism, and insistence on labeling critical media 'fake news' serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists,” the CPJ said.

The group cited Turkey as an egregious offender, even before a press crackdown that began early last year by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and accelerated after an attempted coup in July 2016.

In China, the number of journalists behind bars rose to 41 from 38 a year earlier. The census report mentioned Trump's November visit to Beijing where he made no public reference to human rights, despite an ongoing crackdown that has led to the arrests of Chinese journalists, activists, and lawyers.

The visit came shortly after Xi Jingping tightened his grip on power at the Communist Party Congress, where his name was written into the Constitution and no successor was identified. According to news reports, analysts don’t expect improvement in human rights.


Few other findings from CPJ’s prison census include:

  • 97% percent of jailed journalists are local.
  • Of the total imprisoned worldwide, 22 – or 8 percent – are female journalists.
  • Freelancers account for 75 cases – or 29 percent.
  • Politics is by far the most dangerous beat, covered by 87 percent of those jailed. Many journalists cover more than one beat.

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