Press group cites jump in jailed journalists

December 8, 2011 - 12:05 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — The number of journalists jailed around the world has jumped more than 20 percent to its highest level since the mid-1990s, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

The press advocacy group said in a new report that Iran currently jails more journalists than any other country, accounting for 43 of the 179 news people the committee counted behind bars on Dec. 1.

Among the current detainees is Iranian editor Mohammad Davari, a CPJ International Press Freedom Award winner whose website exposed inmate abuse at a detention center that has since been closed, the committee said in a release.

CPJ said that the Iranian government's post-election crackdown in 2009 launched the start of widespread journalist jailings that continue today.

"The volume of arrests, interrogations, and people out on bail is enormous," said exiled Iranian journalist Omid Memarian. "The effect is that many journalists know they should not touch critical subjects."

CPJ executive director Joel Simon earlier this year told Ahmed Shaeed, the U.N. special investigator for human rights in Iran, that authorities in the country were maintaining "a revolving prison door" for reporters, "freeing some prisoners on furloughs even as they make new arrests."

"The furloughed journalists often post six-figure bonds and endure enormous political pressure to keep silent or turn on their colleagues," Simon wrote in August to Shaeed.

Also ranking among the world's worst jailers of journalists are Eritrea, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Turkey and Syria also rank among the world's worst jailers of journalists, according to CPJ's survey.

As for the worst regions, governments across the Middle East and North Africa were holding 77 journalists behind bars on Dec. 1 — nearly 45 percent of the worldwide total.

For the first time since the organization began issuing the yearly reports in 1990 not a single journalist in the Americas was imprisoned for work-related reasons on that date.

CPJ said the global total is the highest it has been since 1996, when the group counted 185 jailed journalists after Turkey cracked down on ethnic Kurdish reporters.