New Report Warns Number Of Jailed Journalists At Global High

The number of journalists jailed around the world set another record in 2021, as repressive regimes crack down on the independent press, a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists has warned.

The CPJ’s 2021 prison census found that the number of reporters jailed for their work hit a new global record of 293, up from a revised total of 280 in 2020.

THE CPJ recorded 19 journalists murdered in retaliation for their work as of 1 December this year, compared with 22 in all of 2020. Three more were killed this year while reporting from conflict zones, and two others were killed covering protests or street clashes that turned deadly.

“It’s been an especially bleak year for defenders of press freedom,” the CPJ said.

At least 24 journalists were killed because of their coverage so far this year; 18 others died in circumstances “too murky” to determine whether they were specific targets.

China remains the world’s most prolific jailer of journalists for the third year in a row, with 50 journalists behind bars. Myanmar soared to the second slot after the media crackdown that followed its February 1 military coup. Egypt, Vietnam, and Belarus, respectively, rounded out the top five.

“The reasons for the relentless climb in the numbers of detained journalists – this is the sixth consecutive year that CPJ’s census has recorded at least 250 incarcerated – differ between countries. But all reflect a stark trend: a growing intolerance of independent reporting.

“Emboldened autocrats are increasingly ignoring due process and flouting international norms to keep themselves in power,” the CPJ said. “In a world preoccupied with COVID-19 and trying to prioritize issues like climate change, repressive governments are clearly aware that public outrage at human rights abuses is blunted and democratic governments have less appetite for political or economic retaliation.”  

Authoritarian leaders are increasingly finding more sophisticated ways to block independent reporters and outlets – notably internet shutdowns and increased surveillance through high-tech spyware – than keeping them behind bars, the CPJ added.  

“In this grim year for free expression, that kind of intolerance leaves little room for optimism that the number of jailed journalists will stop setting records anytime soon,” the CPJ said.