Number of jailed journalists highest in China; Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea and Vietnam top the list

China was followed by the last year's top-spot holder, Turkey with 47 incarcerations

As per the Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) report released on Wednesday, about 250 reporters were jailed worldwide, till December 1, 2019. The numbers have come down from last year, when 255 were jailed, according to the survey by the US-based CPJ.

Journalists imprisoned
Representational Image

According to the 2019 survey, China with 48 incarcerations, was the worst jailer of journalists. The Asian giant was followed by the last year's top-spot holder, Turkey with 47 incarcerations. Turkey was followed by Saudi Arabia (26), Egypt (26), Eritrea (16), Vietnam (12) and Iran (11). The report compiles the list of journalists imprisoned by government and doesn't include cases of enforced disappearances or those held by non-state actors.

"For the fourth consecutive year, hundreds of journalists are imprisoned globally as authoritarians like Xi Jinping, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Mohammad bin Salman, and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi show no signs of letting up on the critical media," says CPJ's 2019 Prison Census.

Number steadily increased under President Xi Jinping

Regarding China, the report noted that the number has steadily increased since President Xi Jinping consolidated political control of the country. "A crackdown in Xinjiang province - where a million members of Muslim ethnic groups have been sent to internment camps - has led to the arrests of dozens of journalists, including some apparently jailed for journalistic activity years earlier," the report said.

When asked about the issue on Wednesday, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said U.S.-based institutions had no credibility, Reuters reported. "You should feel lucky that you work in Beijing and not in Washington," she responded about the figures.

This is the first time since 2015 that Turkey has not topped the list. It's number came down from 67 (in 2018) to 47, this year. Saudi Arabia and Egypt held 26 reporters behind the bars, according to the report. In Saudi Arabia, no charges have been disclosed in 18 of the cases, the CPJ report said. The watchdog said it is concerned over reports of "beating, burning and starving political prisoners, including four journalists". In Egypt, a large number of journalists are held behind bars on charges of spreading 'fake news'.

"Of 38 journalists jailed in sub-Saharan Africa, the bulk remain in Eritrea, where most have not been heard from for nearly two decades," the report says, adding that Cameroon (7) has the second worst record of African nations.

The countries following Eritrea are Vietnam (12) and Iran (11).

"The record number of journalists jailed for their work in recent years is a cause for alarm," said Courtney Radsch, CPJ's advocacy director. "Each one represents a case of censorship, not to mention a human being deprived of their rights", he further added.