Nigeria, Ethiopia and Rwanda are among the worst jailers of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa according to a 2021 ‘prison census and killed report’ by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Other countries listed in the census include Eritrea, Cameroon, Benin, Somalia, DRC and CAR.
Globally, China remains the worst jailer of journalists with India and Mexico ranking among the deadliest.
In its annual report on press freedom and attacks on the media released on Thursday, the CPJ noted that the number of journalists jailed around the world hit a new record in 2021.
At least 24 journalists were killed because of their coverage, and 18 others died in circumstances that make it too difficult to determine whether they were targeted because of their work, the CPJ said.
“This is the sixth year in a row that CPJ has documented record numbers of journalists imprisoned around the world. The number reflects two inextricable challenges — governments are determined to control and manage information, and they are increasingly brazen in their efforts to do so,” said CPJ Executive Director, Joel Simon. “Imprisoning journalists for reporting the news is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime. It’s distressing to see many countries on the list year after year, but it is especially horrifying that Myanmar and Ethiopia have so brutally slammed the door on press freedom.”
Globally, anti-state charges remain the most common, but this year CPJ also documented at least 17 jailed journalists charged with cybercrimes, which in some cases can result in criminal prosecution for anything published or distributed online.
In Latin America, which historically has had fewer numbers in prison, journalists were jailed in Cuba (3), Nicaragua (2) and Brazil (1), and threats to press freedom intensified across the region.
No journalists were jailed in North America at the time of the census deadline. However, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a partner of CPJ, recorded 56 arrests and detentions of journalists across the U.S. during 2021, with the vast majority occurring during protests.
While countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia seemingly bucked the trend of putting more journalists in prison than in previous years, this does not signal an improved climate for press freedom, but rather a diversification of censorship, with authorities using tools like surveillance and internet shutdowns along with prisoner releases under conditions that deny the very notion of freedom.
Globally, India had the highest number – four – of journalists confirmed to have been killed in direct retaliation for their work, and another killed while covering a protest. Mexico, however, remained the Western hemisphere’s deadliest country for journalists, with three murdered for their reporting and the motives for six other killings under investigation.
Of journalists killed worldwide this year, nearly 80% were murdered.
Featured Image Credit: Ed JONES, AFP
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