Tanzania: 'China, Egypt imprison record number of journalists'

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) - Egypt is second only to China as the world’s worst jailer of journalists in 2015, according to a new report published Tuesday by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Worldwide, the international press rights group said, the number of journalists behind bars for their work declined moderately during the year, but a handful of countries continue to use systematic imprisonment to silence criticism.

Overall, the number of journalists imprisoned around the world declined modestly from record levels recorded in the past three years.

CPJ found a record number of journalists were behind bars in China, and the number of journalists jailed in Turkey and Egypt also rose dramatically in 2015

CPJ identified 199 journalists in prison because of their work in 2015, compared with 221 the previous year. Iran, Vietnam, and Ethiopia were among those countries holding fewer journalists prisoner, but in all three countries a climate of fear for the media persists, with many of those released continuing to face legal charges or harsh restrictions, including forced exile.

According to the report, perhaps nowhere has the climate for the press deteriorated more rapidly than in Egypt, now the second worst jailer of journalists worldwide.

Cairo is holding 23 journalists in jail, compared with 12 a year ago. As recently as 2012, no journalists were in jail for their work in Egypt.

CPJ reported that another of the 10 most censored countries was Ethiopia, which released six bloggers from the Zone 9 collective in 2015, but they still face travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s prisoners still include prominent online columnist Eskinder Nega, who is serving an 18-year term on terrorism charges, and Temesghen Desalegn, an opinion writer who has been denied health care in prison, according to people who have visited.

With 17 behind bars, Eritrea remained the worst jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa, and the world’s worst abuser of due process.

No Eritrean detainee on CPJ’s census has ever been publicly charged with a crime or brought before a court for trial. Six journalists who worked for the government-controlled station Radio Bana were released early in 2015, the reason for which was not clear.

Other trends and details that emerged in CPJ’s research include: The percentage of journalist prisoners who are freelancers was 28 percent, which has steadily declined since 2011. Globally, 109 of the prisoners worked online, and 83 worked in print. The number of prisoners rose in Bangladesh, Gambia, India, and Saudi Arabia in addition to China, Egypt, and Turkey.

CPJ explained that the prison census accounted only for journalists in government custody and did not include those who have disappeared or were held captive by non-state groups.

CPJ defines journalists as people who cover the news or comment on public affairs in media, including print, photographs, radio, television, and online.

In its annual prison census, CPJ includes only those journalists who it has confirmed have been imprisoned in relation to their work.

The press rights body believes that journalists should not be imprisoned for doing their jobs. The organization has sent letters expressing its serious concerns to each country that has imprisoned a journalist.

In the past year, CPJ advocacy led to the early release of at least 31 imprisoned journalists worldwide.

While anti-state accusations are the most commonly used charge for putting journalists in jail, applied in 55 percent of cases, CPJ found the highest proportion of charges in five years, 25 percent, are retaliatory - arbitrary, trumped-up accusations such as drugs or weapons possession, embezzlement, or assault.

Journalists remain on CPJ’s list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody.
-0- PANA AR/SEG 16Dec2015

16 december 2015 06:54:24

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