A record number of journalists are in jail right now, according to press freedom report

For the sixth year in a row, the number of jailed journalists exceeded 250, according to CPJ.

“This is a stark reminder of a continuing trend of progressive authoritarianism around the world,” CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney told CNN Business. “Governments are becoming increasingly intolerant of independent reporting, criticism, journalists uncovering dirty little secrets like corruption, and they are using a variety of means to stop that, and one of them is imprisonment.”

With 50 journalists behind bars, China topped the list for the third year in a row. Among them is Haze Fan, a Chinese national who works in Bloomberg’s Beijing office and who was arrested last December. Bloomberg reported this week that there have been no updates on his case a year later.
CPJ said this year’s census includes Hong Kong for the first time. That’s where Jimmy Lai, founder of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, was sentenced to 14 months in prison earlier this year. China’s National Security Law, implemented in 2020 after months of anti-government protests, expanded Beijing’s power over the special administrative region.

“The vibrant Hong Kong media we once knew is slowly being strangled,” Mahoney said.

A separate report released earlier this week by advocacy group Reporters Without Borders also found China to be the world’s “biggest recruiter of journalists”, with at least 127 journalists detained.
Mahoney told CNN Business that CPJ’s annual census statistics are “conservative.” The census includes only journalists jailed on December 1, meaning that CPJ did not count American journalist Danny Fenster, who was released from prison in Myanmar in November.

“We spend a lot of time investigating the cases and include only those journalists who we are absolutely sure are in jail for their work as journalists. If there is any doubt, we put them in an unconfirmed category,” Mahoney said. “The bottom line is that the world is becoming a more difficult place for independent journalists. Countries are criminalizing the very act of reporting.”

The CPJ report also found that at least 24 journalists were killed for their work as of December 1, up from 22 last year. That statistic includes 19 journalists who were killed in retaliation. India ranked as the country with the highest number of journalists killed in retaliation, with four confirmed deaths in 2021.


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