232 Journalists Imprisoned in 2012, Making This the Worst Year Ever for Press Freedom

A new report released by the Committee to Protect Journalists found that the number of journalists imprisoned in 2012 reached a new high. The organization has been conducting these surveys since 1990.

The CPJ identified 232 individuals behind bars on December 1, which represents a 53% increase from 2011. This surpasses the tally of 185 journalists jailed in 1996. The most imprisonments occurred in Turkey, Iran, and China. In these countries, journalists made extensive use of vague anti-state laws to silence political views, especially those made by ethnic minorities. Other countries where journalists were reported to have been jailed included Eritrea and Syria, both of which currently hold 63 journalists without any publicly disclosed charges.

A breakdown of the record number for this year can be seen here. Turkey was found to be the worst jailer, with 49 journalists in prison. The CPJ found that, “broadly worded anti-terror and penal code statutes have allowed Turkish authorities to conflate the coverage of banned groups and the investigation of sensitive topics with outright terrorism or other anti-state activity.” In other words, there is really no distinguishing factor between those who are working to report an issue such as journalists, and those who are part of an actual terrorist organization.

The CPJ is aware that not all may be aware of these charges. Emphasizing the record number of journalists who have been imprisoned in 2012, the organization created a video to capture some of the experiences which those captured must endure.

While the CPJ tracks how many journalists have been imprisoned, they also keep data on how many have died, are missing, or have been exiled. Data from June 2007 to May 2012 found that 463 were forced into exile along with an exhaustive list of those who are counted as missing but are feared dead.

It is also worth noting that those who work in online media were also found to beimprisoned. In Vietnam, 14 journalists are behind bars, and most of them publish their work through online blogs and articles. CPJ reported that worldwide there are 118 journalists whose work was primarily seen online to be in jail on December 1. There are 77 print journalists imprisoned worldwide, as well as other journalists from radio, television, and documentary filmmaking.

The CPJ data does not include data for those imprisoned and released throughout the year. Journalists remain on the list until it can be determined with certainty that they have been released or died in custody.