Press freedom watchdogs warn of sharp increase of jailed journalists

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Paris –   The number of journalists jailed globally has hit record with a sharp increase in media professionals imprisoned by Turkey, two independent reports published by press freedom watchdogs said on Tuesday.

An annual report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), found that the number of journalists imprisoned worldwide hit a record high of 259 this year after Turkey jailed no fewer than 81 journalists.

CPJ said that Turkey held more journalists simultaneously behind bars this year than any other country on record.

According to CPJ, all 81 journalists held in Turkey faced anti-state charges related to their work.

The organisation noted that dozens of other journalists were also imprisoned in the country, however, CPJ could not confirm that their arrests were directly related to their work.

China, which had topped the list of countries jailing journalists in the past two years, dropped to second place this year holding 38 journalists behind bars.

Egypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia were also among the top five jailers of journalists, which together accounted for two-thirds of imprisoned journalists worldwide.

The warning from the New York-based CPJ coincided with the publication of a report by Reporters without Borders (RSF), which also found that the number of journalists imprisoned in Turkey has risen dramatically over the past 12 months.

According to RSF’s records, no fewer than 100 journalists and media contributors are currently being held in Turkish jails, a 22 per cent rise since 2015.

The organisation said the increase was due to President Recep Erdogan’s authoritarian response to a failed military coup in Turkey in July, which has resulted in raids on media outlets with the aim of silencing government critics.

RSF has been able to directly link the arrests to the victims’ journalistic activities in 41 of the cases, and said it was continuing to investigate the others.

Erdogan has the power to rule by decree under a current state of emergency put in place after the failed coup attempt.

Report says hundreds of journalists have been taken to court on charges of “insulting the president’’ or “terrorism’’.

Christophe Deloire, secretary general of RSF, noted that some newsmen were being jailed without any charges brought against them.

“At the gateway to Europe, an all-out witch-hunt has jailed dozens of journalists and has turned Turkey into the world’s biggest prison for the media profession.

“In the space of a year, the Erdogan regime has crushed all media pluralism while the European Union has said virtually nothing,’’ Deloire stressed.

According to the RSF report, other countries with high numbers of journalists in jail include China, Iran and Egypt.

“A total of 348 journalists are currently being detained worldwide,’’ it said, a rise of 6 per cent since 2015.

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