The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has found that a record number of journalists are currently imprisoned around the world, with Turkey among the top jailers.
As of December 1, 2022, 363 reporters were in government custody, according to the CPJ’s annual prison census, marking a 20 percent increase over last year’s record.
Iran, China, Myanmar, Turkey and Belarus are listed as the top five jailers of journalists.
Turkey has seen a significant increase in the number of jailed journalists, CPJ said, stating that in 2022, the number of journalists held in the country rose from 18 to 40, with 25 Kurdish journalists arrested on terrorism charges.
Kurdish journalists in Turkey often face legal harassment, trials and prison sentences for reporting on Kurdish issues and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Despite this year’s increase in jailed journalists, the number of jailed journalists in Turkey is still lower than it was in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016; however, Turkey’s independent media remains weakened by government shutdowns, takeovers and the forced exile or departure of journalists from the profession, CPJ said.
The CPJ attributes the rise in imprisoned journalists worldwide to authoritarian governments trying to suppress media coverage of widespread discontent caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine. The census only includes journalists in government custody and does not account for those held captive by non-state actors or who have disappeared.
The CPJ warns that the latest arrests in Turkey could signal a renewed assault on press freedom ahead of next year’s elections, particularly in light of a new media law that mandates prison terms for spreading disinformation.
Another report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) found that as of December 1, 2022, a total of 533 journalists were being held for doing their job, with more than a quarter of those arrests taking place in the course of the year, marking a 13.4 percent increase in the number of detained journalists in 2022, following a 20 percent rise in 2021.