Asia holds record for highest number of journalists imprisoned in 2022
Repression of press freedom is on the rise worldwide with Iran, China, Myanmar and Turkey topping the list. This is according to a report published today by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Increasing arrests of women and members of ethnic minorities. Numerous detentions also in Vietnam, India and Afghanistan.
Milan (AsiaNews) - Asia has set a new (negative) record in terms of press freedom: it is the region of the world that has imprisoned the highest number of journalists in the past year, although arrests and repression are on the rise worldwide. This was stated in a report published today by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Globally, 363 reporters were imprisoned, a 20 per cent increase over the previous year. Of these, 119 arrests occurred in Asia, with the governments of China, Myanmar and Vietnam leading the media crackdown.
"Authoritarian leaders doubled down on their criminalization of independent reporting, deploying increasing cruelty to stifle dissenting voices and undermine press freedom," the document reads. But "the imprisonment of journalists is just one of the measures used by authoritarian leaders to try to suppress press freedom".
Iran has imprisoned at least 62 reporters, but - the Committee points out - "the count would be higher if a further 21 journalists detained after the demonstrations began had not been released on bail" before 1 December, the date of the report. Of the 49 reporters arrested before the protests, 22 are women, the highest figure so far.
After the Islamic Republic, the most repressive country is China, where, however, online censorship and a sophisticated surveillance apparatus make it difficult to draw up an exact number of detained reporters. Those arrested in the last year number 43 according to the CPJ, while in 2021 there were 48.
However, the report emphasises, this 'should not be interpreted as an easing of the country's intolerance towards independent reporting'. Most of the detainees are of Uyghur ethnicity, the Turkish-speaking, Muslim minority that inhabits the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, while the repression of independent media in Hong Kong after the adoption of the National Security Act is notorious.
Third on the list is Myanmar, where the number of arrests of journalists rose to 42 (last year there were 30) after the military coup on 1 February 2021. About half were convicted of 'incitement' and 'fake news', while many were also directly murdered by the military junta.
"The coup has not just brought darkness and censorship for independent media outlets and the readers, but also danger for journalists reporting the truth," a Yangon-based journalist told Nikkei Asia anonymously. "Not only are we considered 'enemies of the state', but we are forced to lead a double or even triple life."
Next comes Turkey, with the number of arrests almost doubling in the past year, from 18 to 40: most of the reporters are ethnic Kurds. Ankara in the second half of the year imprisoned '25 Kurdish reporters working for the Mezopotamya news agency and the all-female news agency JINNEWS', the CPJ continues.
"Many now fear that the latest arrests could signal a fresh assault on press freedom ahead of next year’s elections, especially given the Turkish parliament’s October ratification of a controversial media law mandating prison terms for those deemed to be spreading disinformation."
To complete the Asian picture, Vietnam has jailed 21 independent journalists, many of whom are serving long prison sentences. Of particular note is the case of journalist Pham Doan Trang, not only sentenced to 9 nine years for crimes against the state, but who was also 'transferred from Hanoi to a remote prison more than 900 miles from her family, a common tactic to prevent regular visits to prison'.
India with seven detained journalists continues to draw criticism for its repression of the media in the Kashmir region, while Afghanistan after the total suppression of independent newsrooms, imprisoned three journalists this year for the first time in 12 years.