Record number of newspeople in jail

A record number of journalists were imprisoned in 2012, and there are concerns it could be even worse in the New Year. The Committee to Protect Journalists has released its annual report listing the top jailers of members of the media.

The committee’s Mohamed Keita says attacks on the press have steadily grown. He is advocacy coordinator for the organization’s African program.

“232 journalists were jailed in 27 nations around the world as of December 1st, 2012, surpassing the 1996 record of 185. And out of all these journalists, only three were international journalists. The vast majority were local journalists,” he said.

Keita called it an alarming trend that began with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“In our analysis, we’ve seen that terrorism, treason and subversion were the most common charges and allegations used by governments, such as Turkey, Iran, China to jail journalists. Anti-state charges and terrorist labels have just become the preferred means that many governments use to intimidate and detain journalists and critical reporters,” he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported Turkey as the top offender with 49 imprisoned journalists, followed by Iran with 45 and China with 32. Eritrea, Syria, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan round out the top 10.

“In Africa, Ethiopia is a prime example of a nation that is using a very vaguely worded anti-terrorism law to jail and prosecute critical journalists and dissidents,” Keita said.

Ethiopia is eighth on the list with six imprisoned journalists. Its neighbor, Eritrea, has jailed 28 journalists.

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