Media under attack-historic record high numbers of journalists imprisoned globally in 2021

 488 media professionals are languishing in prisons around the world

The media is under attack. The rising authoritarianism in the world is targeting the independent media and journalists.  Historically high numbers of journalists have been imprisoned in 2021. The number of journalists detained this year has risen by 20%. The numbers have increased mainly due to crackdown on media in Myanmar, Belarus and Hong Kong.

The two separate reports released by global media watchdogs Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in December 2021 clearly pointed out that attacks on media freedom and journalists have been increased due to the rise of right wing populist leaders and authoritarianism.  

In its annual report released on December 09 this year, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said that 293 journalists were detained alone in 2021. China and Myanmar has detained the highest number of journalists during 2021.  

In its annual report, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) listed 50 journalists imprisoned in China, 26 in Burma, 25 in Egypt, 23 in Vietnam and 19 in Belarus in 2021.

Adding those jailed in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, the CPJ said a total of 293 journalists were in prison worldwide as of December 1 — up from 280 the year before.

“This is the sixth year in a row that CPJ has documented record numbers of journalists imprisoned around the world,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the group. Imprisoning journalists for reporting the news is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime.

It's distressing to see many countries on the list year after year, but it is especially horrifying that Myanmar and Ethiopia have so brutally slammed the door on press freedom.”

India was also high on the list, with four journalists killed this year.

There are currently 488 media professionals imprisoned around the world, the highest number since Reporters Without Borders (RSF) began counting more than 25 years ago, the media watch dog has revealed in its recent report.

RSF said it had also never seen so many female journalists detained, with the overall number of 60 representing a third more than 2020. China has imprisoned 127, Myanmar 53, followed by Vietnam (43), Belarus (32) and Saudi Arabia (31).

“The number of journalists detained in connection with their work has never been this high since RSF began publishing its annual round-up in 1995 said the media watchdog in a statement.”

However, 46 journalists were killed during 2021 which is lowest number since RSF started compiling annual reports.  This number went down mainly due to the relative stabilisation of conflicts in the Middle East.

The falling number of deaths since a peak in 2016 reflects changing dynamics in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, where a reduction in conflict means fewer journalists have been drawn to the region. Most of the 46 killings were assassinations: “65pc were deliberately targeted and eliminated,” the report said.

The most dangerous countries were once again Mexico and Afghanistan, with seven and six journalist deaths respectively, followed by Yemen and India with four each. India is also high on the list, with four journalists killed this year. A “people's tribunal” to achieve justice for murdered journalists opened in The Hague last month to defend media freedoms in an age of increasing authoritarianism and populism.

Set up by a coalition of press freedom organisations, the hearings lasting six months will focus on the unsolved cases of three journalists murdered in Mexico, Sri Lanka and Syria.

While it has no legal powers to convict anyone, the tribunal aims to raise awareness, pressure governments and gather evidence through what it calls its form of “grassroots justice”. The tribunal was organised by Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and Reporters Without Borders.

RSF also counted 65 journalists and colleagues held as hostages around the world. All are in the Middle East — Syria (44), Iraq (11) and Yemen (9) — apart from French journalist Olivier Dubois, held in Mali since April.

                                                              Rukhsana Manzoor Deputy Editor   

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