The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists says the number of reporters in prisons worldwide reached a record high this year.
The watchdog group named Turkey, Iran and China the worst offenders, saying those governments stepped up terror and other anti-state charges to silence critical media.
A CPJ report issued Tuesday says 232 writers, editors, and photojournalists were behind bars as of December 1, a record number since the group began counting in 1990. The nearly 30 percent increase over 2011 is the largest percentage jump in a decade.
To date, there have been 65 journalists killed worldwide in 2012. CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said anti-state charges and ‘terrorist’ labels are the preferred means by governments to intimidate, detain, and imprison journalists. The group found at least 132 reporters were being held worldwide on such charges.
Turkey holds 49 journalists, more than any other country. Dozens are Kurdish reporters and editors held on terror-related charges and anti-government plots.
Iran, the second-worst jailer with 45 behind bars, has sustained a crackdown that began after the disputed 2009 presidential election. China is the third worst, with 19 of the 32 journalists held from the Muslim Uighur minority and ethnic Tibetan groups.
The group said the Red Sea nation of Eritrea has 28 journalists in jail, with none publicly charged or having appeared in court. Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were holding at least 15 reporters.
Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan complete the top 10 countries holding the most journalists behind bars.
For the first time since 1996, Burma is not among the nations jailing journalists. As part of the country’s historic transition to civilian rule, the authorities released at least 12 imprisoned journalists in a series of pardons during the past year.
A single imprisonment in Cuba was the only case documented by CPJ in the Americas, where jailings have become increasingly rare. The overwhelming majority of the detainees are local journalists being held by their own governments.
CPJ said 118 journalists whose work appeared primarily online were in jail on December 1, constituting a little more than half of the census.
Print journalists constituted the second-largest professional group, with 77 jailed worldwide. The other detainees were from radio, television, and documentary filmmaking.