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Press Watchdog Reports China as Biggest Jailer of Journalists

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A press watchdog group reported Wednesday that at least 250 journalists are jailed around the world, with the largest number being detained in China. Amid a growing crackdown by authoritarian regimes on independent media.

Many of those imprisoned journalists face “anti-state” charges or are accused of producing “false news,” according to the report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The committee also cited Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea, Vietnam, and Iran for their jailing of journalists.

The press freedom watchdog said it counted at least 48 journalists jailed in China, as President Xi Jinping ramps up control on the media.

That put China ahead of Turkey, which has 47 imprisoned journalists. With the largest number over the previous three years.

The report said Turkey, had 68 journalists jailed last year. Reflecting the efforts of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stamp out independent reporting and criticism.

The CPJ said the Turkish government has shut down more than 100 news outlets. Turkey also lodged terror-related charges against many of their journalists. Putting many journalists out of work and intimidating others.

“Dozens of journalists not currently jailed in Turkey are still facing trial or appeal and could yet be sentenced to prison. Meanwhile others have been sentenced in absentia and face arrest if they return to the country,” the committee said.

Authoritarianism, instability and protests

Chinese freelance journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin, arrested in October after writing about pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

The report said authoritarianism, instability and protests in the Middle East led to a rise in the number of journalists locked up in the region. Saudi Arabia was on a par with Egypt as the third worst jailer worldwide, each with 26 imprisoned.

In Saudi Arabia, no charges have been disclosed against 18 of the journalists behind bars. The CPJ expressed concern over reports of “beating, burning and starving political prisoners”, including four journalists.

Several arrests in Egypt came ahead of protests against corruption in September. Which also included calls for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to resign.

Campaigners say the global total of 250 detained journalists remains disturbingly high. While its slightly below the 255 counted in 2018 and the record 273 in 2016.

“CPJ believes that journalists should not be imprisoned for doing their jobs,” the group said in its report.

Intimidation of foreign journalists marks a shift for the Chinese authorities and a sign of the government’s resolve agains reporters.

It cited the case of Chinese freelance journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin. She was arrested in October after writing about marching with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

It also highlighted the case Egyptian economics reporter Mohammad Mosaed. He was also detained after tweeting during an internet shutdown. The shutdown was intended to suppress news of protests against high fuel prices.

Globally, the number of journalists charged with ‘false news’ rose to 30 compared with 28 last year. This charge is used most frequently in Egypt but has also been leveled against journalists in Russia and Singapore.

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