The press freedom arbiter, Committee to Protect Journalists, has released this year’s database of journalists Imprisoned worldwide, showing a rise in cases of journalists jailed on account of their work.
The report released on Wednesday said the number of journalists imprisoned for their work hit a “historical high” for the second year in a row.
“As of December 1, 2017, CPJ found 262 journalists behind bars around the world in relation to their work, an increase on last year’s historical high of 259,” the statement noted.
The database features two Nigerian journalists that are similarly imprisoned.
Ahmed Abba, a journalist of Nigerian descent, who worked for the Radio France in Cameroon has been in that country’s detention since July 2015. CPJ had earlier launched a campaign for his release.
Another Nigerian journalist featured in the list is Jones Abiri, publisher of Bayelsa-based Weekly Source tabloid newspaper.
Mr. Abiri was arrested in July 2016 by operatives of the State Security Service, SSS, who ransacked his office in Yenagoa before whisking him to Abuja.
The world’s worst jailers of journalists, according to the report, are the trio of Turkey, China and Egypt – carrying on the baton from last year.
“Turkey is again the worst jailer, with 73 journalists imprisoned for their work as the country continues its press freedom crackdown. China and Egypt again take the second and third spot, with 41 and 20 cases respectively. The worst three jailers are responsible for jailing 134–or 51 percent–of the total.”
CPJ decried that the U.S. and other Western powers have failed to pressure the three countries to improve “the bleak climate for press freedom”.
“In a just society, no journalist should ever be imprisoned for their work and reporting critically, but 262 are paying that price,” said CPJ Executive Director, Joel Simon.
“It is shameful that for the second year in a row, a record number of journalists are behind bars. Countries that jail journalists for what they publish are violating international law and must be held accountable. The fact that repressive governments are not paying a price for throwing journalists in jail represents a failure of the international community.”
According to CPJ’s census 194 journalists, or 74 per cent, are imprisoned on anti-state charges, many under broad or vague terror laws.
In Turkey, every journalist on the census is either accused of or charged with anti-state crimes. Although many journalists cover multiple beats, politics was the most dangerous, covered by 87 percent of those jailed. Nearly all the jailed journalists are local and the percentage of freelancers is higher this year, accounting for 29 per cent of cases.
Other leading jailers of journalists in 2017 are Eritrea, with 15 cases, and Azerbaijan and Vietnam, with 10 cases each.
“The international community has done little to isolate repressive countries and U.S. President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric and insistence on labeling critical media “fake news” serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists.
“CPJ’s 2017 census found the number of journalists jailed for “false news” doubled this year, to 21 cases,” the report added.