The number of journalists arrested around the world for their work crossed 250 for the third straight year in 2018, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in its annual report released on Thursday. As of December 1, as many as 251 journalists had been detained for doing their jobs this year, the report said.
“It looks like a trend now,” said the report’s author, Elana Beiser, Reuters reported. “It looks like the new normal.”
Turkey has imprisoned 68 journalists this year, the highest of all countries, followed by China (47), Egypt (25), Saudi Arabia (16), Eritrea (16), Vietnam (11) and Azerbaijan (10). Last year, a record 272 journalists were imprisoned for their work, while the number was 259 in 2016.
“The majority of those imprisoned globally – 70% – are facing anti-state charges such as belonging to or aiding groups deemed by authorities as terrorist organisations,” the report noted.
According to the committee, the number of journalists imprisoned on charges of false news rose to 28 globally, while only nine were arrested just two years ago. In China, where the number rose from 41 to 47 this year, at least 10 journalists were detained without charge – all of them in Xinjiang where the United Nations has accused Beijing of conducting mass surveillance and detaining up to a million people without trial.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which has been under intense scrutiny for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, jailed at least 16 journalists this year till December 1.
The study comes days after the TIME magazine released its “Person of the Year” names for 2018, featuring a group of journalists who helped expose “the manipulation and the abuse of truth” around the world. Apart from Khashoggi, the magazine recognised the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland, Phillipine journalist Maria Ressa and Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.
The staff members of the Capital Gazette were the victims of a gun attack in June, while Ressa is the editor of the Rappler news website and a trenchant critic of the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison in September for violating the Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, 1923, while working on a story on the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state’s Inn Din village during an Army crackdown in 2017.