Paris — Eritrea and Ethiopia have respectively become Africa’s leading jailers of journalists, according to the jailed Journalists List of 2012 released by the US-based, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The number of journalists imprisoned worldwide has reached a record high this year, with 232 reporters, photojournalists and editors imprisoned in 27 countries.
The figure above has seen a rise of 53 to that of last year and is the highest since CPJ began the survey in 1990.
The group said it has found widespread use of anti-state charges primarily related with terrorism, treason and subversion as most common allegations brought against critical journalists and editors.
“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,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.
According to the new survey, Turkey leads the world’s worst jailers list with 49 journalists behind bars followed by Iran and China who imprisoned 45 and 32 journalists respectively.
Eritrea and Syria are ranked the world’s fourth and fifth worst jailers who respectively jailed 28 and 15 journalists without charge or due process and holding them in secret prisons without access to lawyers or family members.
Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and Saudi Arabia were also included in the top ten foremost jailers of journalists.
“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” added Simon.
“With a record number of journalists imprisoned around the world, the time has come to speak out,” said Simon.
“We must fight back against governments seeking to cloak their repressive tactics under the banner of fighting terrorism; we must push for broad legislative changes in countries where critical journalism is being criminalized; we must stand up for all those journalists in prison and do all in our power to secure their release; and we must ensure the Internet itself remains an open global platform for critical expression” he added.
The press freedom group said it has sent letters to the governments of the countries listed in CPJ’s 2012 census expressing serious concern over the situation.