As the graph above shows, 232 individuals were identified as being behind bars on 1 December, an increase of 53 over the 2011 total.
Large-scale imprisonments in Turkey, Iran, and China lifted the global tally to its highest point since CPJ began conducting worldwide surveys in 1990, surpassing the previous record of 185 in 996.
All three nations – the world’s worst jailers of the press – each made extensive use of vague anti-state laws to silence dissenting political views, including those expressed by ethnic minorities.
Overall, anti-state charges such as terrorism, treason, and subversion were the most common allegations brought against journalists in 012. At least 132 journalists were being held around the world on such charges.
Eritrea and Syria also ranked among the world’s worst, each jailing numerous journalists without charge or due process and holding them in secret prisons without access to lawyers or family members. In total, 63 journalists are being held without any publicly disclosed charge.
Here, country by country, are the 10 worst jailers…
Turkey, the world’s worst jailer of journalists
Turkey has 49 journalists behind bars, with dozens of Kurdish reporters and editors held on terror-related charges. A number of other journalists are detained on charges of involvement in anti-government plots.
In 012, CPJ conducted an extensive review of imprisonments in Turkey and found that broadly worded anti-terror and penal code statutes have allowed the authorities to conflate the coverage of banned groups and the investigation of sensitive topics with outright terrorism or other anti-state activity.
These statutes “make no distinction between journalists exercising freedom of expression and [individuals] aiding terrorism,” said Mehmet Ali Birand, an editor with the Istanbul-based station Kanal D. He calls the use of anti-state laws against journalists a “national disease.”
Birand said “the government does not differentiate between these two major things: freedom of expression and terrorism.”
Iran, the second-worst jailer
Iran has 45 journalists behind bars following a sustained a crackdown that began after the disputed 2009 presidential election. The authorities have followed a pattern of freeing some detainees on six-figure bonds even as they make new arrests.
The imprisoned include Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, an award-winning editor of the Iranian Women’s Club, a news website focusing on women’s issues. She began serving a one-year term in September on charges of “propagating against the regime” and “insulting the president” for articles she wrote during the 2009 election. Her husband, journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, is serving a five-year prison term on anti-state charges.
China, the third-worst jailer
China has made extensive use of anti-state charges to jail online writers expressing dissident political views and journalists covering ethnic minority groups. Nineteen of the 32 journalists held in China are Tibetans or Uighurs imprisoned for documenting ethnic tensions that escalated in 2008.
The detainees include Dhondup Wangchen, a documentary filmmaker jailed after interviewing Tibetans about their lives under Chinese rule. CPJ honoured Wangchen with one of its 012 International Press Freedom Awards.
“Journalists who report on areas deemed ‘most sensitive’ by the state—China‘s troubled ethnic regions of Tibet and Xinjiang—are most vulnerable,” said Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.
“Journalists living and working in those areas are not just concerned with the red lines set by the state for all journalists but also the shifting gray lines, where the Chinese government’s security footing is at an ongoing, all-time high.”
Eritrea: journalists arrested without charge
Eritrea, with 28 journalists in detention, is the fourth-highest jailer. No Eritrean detainee has ever been publicly charged with a crime or brought before a cou