Journalist Imprisonments Worldwide on the Rise, Says Media Watchdogs

The detention of Erol Onderoglu (C) triggers international outrage as concerns grow over rising authoritarianism under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Baguio City, 15 Rabiul Awwal 1438/15 Decenber 2016 (MINA) – Two press freedom watchdogs, France-based Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), are alarmed by the rise in the number of journalists thrown into jails worldwide.

In its annual worldwide round-up on journalists who are detained, held hostage or missing, the RSF said that the numbers are rising dramatically. It said that a total of 348 journalists are currently detained worldwide — 6 percent more than last year.

The number of detained professional journalists in Turkey has risen 22 percent in the wake of the failed coup d’état in July, RSF said.

More than 100 journalists and media contributors are now in Turkish jails, its records showed. The RSF was able to establish a direct link between the arrest and the victim’s journalistic activities in 41 of these cases.

The increasing authoritarianism of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being reflected in raids on media outlets that are designed to silence his critics, Philstar quoted the RSF as saying.

Hundreds of Turkish journalists have been taken to court on charges of “insulting the president” or “terrorism.” Some have even been jailed without any charges brought against them. The number of cases of arbitrary imprisonment continues to rise, the France-based media watchdog added.

The New York-based CPJ also blamed Turkey’s “unprecedented crackdown on media” for bringing “the total number of jailed journalists worldwide to the highest number” since it started taking an annual census in 1990.

Turkey had at least 81 journalists behind bars, according to CPJ’s records, the highest number in any one country at a time and every one of them faces anti-state charges.

The prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups. CPJ estimates that at least 40 journalists are missing or kidnapped in the Middle East and North Africa.

Anti-state charges

As of Dec. 1, 2016, there were 259 journalists in jail around the world, the New York-based media watchdog said.

Aside from Turkey, the three other biggest jailers of journalists are China, Iran and Egypt. They alone account for more than two-thirds of the world’s detained journalists, RSF noted.

Nearly three-quarters of the 259 journalists in jail globally face anti-state charges, CPJ added. About 20 percent of journalists in prison are freelancers, a percentage that has steadily declined since 2011. The vast majority of journalists in jail worked online or in print while about 14 percent are broadcast journalists.

“The persecution of journalists around the world is growing at a shocking rate,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in the annual round-up.

“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.”

Meanwhile, some 52 journalists are currently being held hostage. This year, all of them are in conflict zones in the Middle East, the RSF said.

Unsurprisingly, Syria and Iraq were named among the most dangerous countries, with the Islamic State alone holding 21 of these hostages.

RSF called for the creation of a “Special Representative for the safety of journalists” position directly attached to the office of the United Nations (UN) secretary-general. The many UN resolutions on protecting journalists and combating impunity have yet to produce satisfactory results, it said. (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency )MINA)