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China has overtaken Turkey as the worst jailer of journalists

China currently holds 47 reporters as prisoners [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 December, 2019

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A report by a press watchdog has revealed that China has imprisoned the largest number of journalist globally, followed closely by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt
China has displaced Turkey as the largest jailer of reporters in the world, according to an annual survey released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday.

Following China, Turkey, Saudi Arab and Egypt remain the worst jailers of journalists globally.

The CPJ report notes that "authoritarianism, instability and protests" in the Middle East are the primary factors shaping the situation.

China, the most repressive media environment for journalists, currently holds 47 as prisoners.

The substantial figure reflects the numer of reporters who have documented the systematic persecution of China's Muslim Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjang.

While Turkey has seen a dip from 68 imprisoned journalist last year to 47 this year, the change suggests that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's efforts to stamp out "independent reporting and criticism" have been successful.

Dozens of journalists not currently imprisoned within Turkey are yet to face trial or appeal, and face sentencing in absentia. Those who have sentences face arrest once they return to the country, according to the CPJ report.

Twenty-six journalists are currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, amid a growing number of documented cases of abuse. No charges have been disclosed against over two-thirds of that figure.

The CPJ reports that at least four Saudi journalists have been beaten, burnt and starved alongside other "political prisoners".

The kingdom this year slid to 172 out of 180 countries in an index ranking freedom of the media, prepared annually by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

A total crackdown on dissent has emerged under the rule of Crown Prince Mohmmaed bin Salman, who in September accepted responsibility the October 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Istanbul.

Egypt has with the same number of journalists imprisoned as Saudi Arabia. Officials insist their President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's government has targetted 26 reporters who have sought to "destabilise" the country.

Journalists accused of reporting "false" or "fake news" have risen globally and the charge is used most prolifically in Egypt, where prosecutions are carried out en masse.

Often faced with the parrallel charge of support for "terrorism", recent arrest in Egypt took place prior to protests against corruption September, including calls for el-Sisi to resign.

The government has also specifically targeted independent media, banning more than 500 websites, including The New Arab, Al-Jazeera and Mada Masr, and brought the rest of the press under state control.

The number of journalists which have been imprisoned globally remains close to record high, with only a global slip from 253 to 245.


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