The bulk of journalists imprisoned internationally work for digital news organizations, and print journalists comprise the second largest group of jailed correspondents worldwide, according to a report released Tuesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The report, a survey released annually by the press advocacy organization counting imprisoned journalists, lists China as the country responsible for jailing the most journalists, with nearly 50 correspondents in its cells. Egypt is cited as the second-worst offender, with 23 journalists confined throughout the country.
Of the journalists languishing in cells worldwide, most have been detained for challenging authority with “anti-state accusations,” according to the report.
While anti-state accusations are the most commonly used charge for putting journalists in jail, applied in 55 percent of cases, CPJ found the highest proportion of charges in five years, 25 percent, are retaliatory—arbitrary, trumped-up accusations such as drugs or weapons possession, embezzlement, or assault.
There are relative bright spots in the annual census. For the first time since 2011 — and only the second time since 1990 — there were no journalists imprisoned in the Americas. The report also saw the number of journalists imprisoned decrease to 199 from 221 the year before. CPJ describes this as a modest drop when compared to record highs recorded during the previous three years.
The biggest jailers of journalists internationally, Egypt and China, are both defined by authoritarian regimes that use imprisonment as a tool to quash dissent, according to the report. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, has presided over a rapid decline in press freedom during his tenure. In China, reporting on the nation’s finances has become especially touchy as “President Xi Jinping continues his crackdown on corruption.”
More than a third of the countries listed as imprisoning journalists have jailed just a single correspondent, a statistic that points to there being relatively few countries that systematically detain correspondents. Nearly 30 percent of the journalists imprisoned worldwide are freelancers, a number that has declined since 2011.
Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been jailed in Iran for more than 16 months, is joined in his imprisonment by 18 other journalists, according to the report. His jail term is the longest of any U.S. correspondent in a foreign country since CPJ began tracking imprisonments.