Number of journalists jailed worldwide hits new high
More journalists than ever are languishing in prisons across the world.
The move comes as countries such as Turkey, Iran and China step up terror and other anti-state charges to silence critical press, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists has said.
The group said it identified 232 writers, editors, and photojournalists behind bars as of December 1, an increase of 53 from 2011 figures and a record number since the group began counting in 1990, CBS News reports.
"We are living in an age when anti-state charges and 'terrorist' labels have become the preferred means that governments use to intimidate, detain, and imprison journalists," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement.
"Criminalizing probing coverage of inconvenient topics violates not only international law, but impedes the right of people around the world to gather, disseminate, and receive independent information," Simon said.
According to the report, Turkey currently holds more journalists, 49, than any other country, the group said.
Dozens of those imprisoned are Kurdish reporters and editors held on terror-related charges and anti-government plots.
The watchdog said broadly worded anti-terror and penal code statutes allow Turkish authorities "to conflate the coverage of banned groups and the investigation of sensitive topics with outright terrorism or other anti-state activity," the report added.
Iran is the second-worst jailer, with 45 journalists behind bars, the watchdog said. China is the third worst.
Nineteen of the 32 journalists held in China are from the Muslim Uighur minority and ethnic Tibetan groups.
Syria, where a bloody civil war has been ravaging for months, holds 15 journalists in jail, the report said.
According to the report, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan complete the top 10 countries holding the most journalists behind bars.
The Committee to Project Journalists also highlighted an improvement in Myanmar, which over the last year has pardoned a dozen journalists, it added.