•   Sunday, 22 May, 2022

Number of journalists in jail around the world at a new high

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  Sheikh Sadeque Ali

The number of journalists who are behind bars worldwide reached a new high point in 2021, according to a study that says that 293 reporters were imprisoned as of 1 December 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 nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday in its annual survey on press freedom and attacks on the media.

The number in jail rose by 15 compared with 2020.

While the reasons for jailing reporters varies between countries, the record number reflects political upheaval around the world and a growing intolerance of independent reporting, according to the US-based nonprofit. CPJ executive director Joel Simon, in a statement, 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."

The dangers faced by reporters were underlined when police in the Philippines said a journalist was killed in an execution-style attack while watching television at a store in the central city of Calbayog on Wednesday.

Jesus Malabanan, a 58-year-old provincial correspondent for the Manila Standard newspaper, died while being transported to a hospital after being shot once in the head by one of two men on motorcycles.

Other journalists who were killed in 2021 include Danish Siddiqui, a Reuters photographer who died in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan in July, and Mexican radio journalist Jacinto Romero Flores, who was shot dead in Veracruz in August.

China imprisoned 50 journalists, the most of any country, followed by Myanmar (26), which arrested reporters as part of a crackdown after its military coup, then Egypt (25), Vietnam (23) and Belarus (19), the CPJ said.

For the first time, the CPJ's list includes journalists incarcerated in Hong Kong - a byproduct of the 2020 national security law which makes anything Beijing regards as subversion, secession, terrorism or colluding with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.

Mexico, where journalists are often targeted when their work upsets criminal gangs or corrupt officials, remains the western hemisphere's deadliest country for reporters, according to the CPJ.

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