Number of journalists imprisoned hits record high; more than one killed every week in 2022: RSF

The number of journalists imprisoned hit a record high this year, said media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF). According to the RSF’s annual round-up of violence and abuses against journalists, more than one journalist was killed every week in 2022 and up to December 1, the number of journalists killed was 20 per cent higher than the same time last year. 

At least 533 journalists are currently detained across the world which is up from 488 last year which was already a record high, said the report by the Paris-based watchdog, published on Wednesday. It also called China, “the world’s biggest jailer of journalists” with a total of 110 journalists who are currently in prison. This was followed by Myanmar (62), Iran (47), Vietnam (39) and Belarus (31). 

Among those imprisoned at least three-quarters are in Asia and the Middle East, said the report, while a little over one-third of the imprisoned media workers, across the world, have been convicted. However, the remaining two-thirds are being detained without trial. “Some of them have been waiting for their trial for more than 20 years,” said the RSF. 

The RSF also mentioned the longest sentence recorded by the watchdog in 2022, which has been handed to Ivan Safronov, a Russian investigative journalist who has been convicted for revealing “state secrets” and sentenced to 22 years in prison. 

Furthermore, the number of women journalists imprisoned has also risen from 60 to 78 since 2021 which the report has largely attributed to the number of women entering the profession. 

Notably, the RSF has been publishing the annual report since 1995 and highlighted the unprecedented move by Iran which has locked at least 34, media professionals, since the beginning of the countrywide protests in September. The demonstrations broke out following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who allegedly died in custody after being detained by the country’s morality police. 

“Dictatorial and authoritarian regimes are filling their prisons faster than ever by jailing journalists,” said RSF Secretary-General, Christophe Deloire. He added, “This new record in the number of detained journalists confirms the pressing and urgent need to resist these unscrupulous governments and to extend our active solidarity to all those who embody the ideal of journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism.” 

The report also said that 57 media workers have been killed in 2022 which is an 18.8 per cent increase when compared to 48 last year. This increase has been attributed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while numbers are up from the “historic lows” of 48 and 50 in the last two years, respectively.

At least eight journalists were killed while reporting about the conflict in the first six months while more than 60 per cent of media workers lost their lives in countries that are considered to be at peace. Reportedly, seven female journalists were killed this year which constitutes 12 per cent of all victims. 

Meanwhile, Mexico topped the list where a total of 11 journalists were killed this year which is almost 20 per cent of those killed across the world. This was followed by Haiti (6) and Brazil (3) which contributed to making the Americas the world’s most dangerous region for media in 2022, accounting for 47.5 per cent of all deaths worldwide.  

The report also noted that at least 65 journalists and media workers are currently being held hostage and nearly 49 journalists are missing. In 2022, 80 per cent of media workers across the world were “deliberately targeted” for their work or the stories they were covering, including organised crime and corruption cases, said the report. 

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