The Committee to Protect Journalists survey for 2012 shows that the number of imprisoned journalists worldwide reached a record high. The CPJ has identified 232 journalists imprisoned in 2012. This is 53 more than in 2011.
CPJ began surveys of journalists in jail around the world in 1990. Governments often use charges of terrorism or other offenses against the state to silence any voices critical of the government.
Turkey is at the top of the CPJ list for jailing journalists There are at least 49 journalists in jail in Turkey. Along with Iran and China, the second and third worst jailers of journalists, Turkey makes use of vague anti-state laws to silence dissenting voices. Both in China and in Turkey, as well as Iran, the laws are used against dissenting minorities.
Anti-state charges such as terrorism, treason, and subversion were the most common charges against journalists. In 2012 at least 132 journalists are being held around the world on these types of charges.
After China, the fourth and fifth worst countries for jailing the press were Eritrea, the small African country, and Syria. Many journalists have been jailed without either charges being brought or any due process. A number are detained in secret prisons. During the period of U.S. renditions, Syria was often used as a place where terror suspects were interrogated and tortured There are 63 journalists being held throughout the world with no charges publicly disclosed against them.
The final five nations in the top ten nations jailing journalists are, in order: Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and Saudi Arabia. In the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, authorities often use charges such as hooliganism and drug possession unrelated to journalism to jail those critical of the regime. In many cases, CJP found these charges to be fabricated.
In Turkey many of the journalists held are Kurdish reporters and editors often charged with terrorism or anti-government plots. CJP found that Turkish statutes are broadly worded so that reporters covering banned groups or investigating sensitive topics can themselves face charges. Mehmet Birand of Kanal D TV in Istanbul said that the statutes make no distinction between journalists who are simply expressing their views and those who aid terrorism. Among those imprisoned in Turkey is Tayip Temel who edited the sole Kurdish language daily who is charged with belonging to a banned organization.
China, too, uses anti-state charges to jail those expressing dissident views or even providing coverage of protests by ethnic minorities. 32 of the journalists held in China are either Tibetans or Uighurs jailed for covering the ethnic tensions that escalated in 2008. Included is Dhondup Wangchen , a documentary film producer. Wangchen filmed a documentary about Tibetans living under Chinese rule.
CPJ claims that Eritrea iis the worst at abusing due process. The country holds 28 journalists, the fourth largest number in the world, even though Eritrea is a small African nation. None of these journalists have even been charged with a crime. The President Isaias Afwerki refuses to reveal anything about the jailed journalists. As many as five are believed to have died in custody, but the government refuses to confirm anything.
The complete CPJ report has many more detailed descriptions of the situation of jailed journalists. Crushing dissent takes priority over press freedom in many areas of the world.