A record total of 533 journalists are currently detained worldwide, according to the annual round-up of violence and abuses against journalists published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In what is yet another unprecedented figure for RSF, a total of 78 women journalists are currently behind bars. The number of those killed has increased again this year – to 57– while 65 journalists are being held hostage and 49 are missing.
More than a quarter of the 533 behind bars were arrested in the course of the year. RSF has never previously registered such a high number of imprisoned journalists.
“This latest increase in the number of detained journalists (up 13.4% in 2022, after a 20% rise in 2021) confirms that authoritarian regimes are becoming more and more comfortable with jailing the journalists who bother them, in most cases without even putting them on trial. Just over a third of the journalists who are detained have been convicted. The others (63.6%) are being detained without having been tried”, the RSF report says.
“China, where censorship and surveillance have reached extreme levels, continues to be the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, with a total of 110 currently held. In Myanmar – where journalism is now effectively prohibited, as seen by the many media outlets that were banned after the military coup in February 2021 – 62 journalists are currently detained.”
“In another sign of a major crackdown, the Islamic Republic of Iran, with 47 detained journalists, became the world’s third biggest jailer of media personnel just one month after the outbreak of massive protests.”
“Two regions alone hold three quarters of the world’s imprisoned journalists: nearly 45% in Asia and more than 30% in the Maghreb and the Middle East. Russia has also seen a major crackdown since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.”
RSF reports that a total of 78 women journalists are currently behind bars. After an increase of nearly 20% last year, the number registered another record rise of 27.9% in 2022. By comparison, the number of male journalists in prison rose by 11.2%. Women now account for 14.6% of imprisoned journalists, whereas women comprised less than 7% of imprisoned journalists five years ago.
“This rise both reflects the growing proportion of women in journalism and confirms that women are not spared from the repression faced by journalists. Like their male colleagues, they are victims of the regimes that are harshest towards press freedom.”
Four countries among those with the lowest rankings in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index detain more than 70% of the world’s imprisoned women journalists – China (with 19 women journalists detained), Iran (18), Myanmar (10) and Belarus (9)
More than half (54%) of the world’s imprisoned journalists are held in five countries. After a month of protests, Iran became the world’s third biggest jailer of journalists. The scale of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s crackdown on the protest movement that began on 16 September is such that more journalists are currently detained than at any other time in the past 20 years, according to RSF data.
Unlike Iran, the four other countries that are among the five biggest jailers of journalists were already in the top five in 2021. Year after year, China is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, with a total of 110.
“The situation is just as critical in Myanmar, which, in terms of population size, is by far the world’s biggest jailer of journalists. Finally, in Vietnam and Belarus, despite slight falls in the number of detained journalists in 2022, authoritarian regimes led by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and President Alexander Lukashenko have continued their efforts to crush the independent media.
After two years of relative respite and historically low figures, the number of journalists killed in connection with their work rose by 18.8% in 2022. A total of 57 journalists paid with their lives for their commitment to report the news, versus 48 in 2021 and 50 in 2020.
The war in Ukraine, which broke out on 24 February, is one of the causes of this increase. The number of journalists killed in war zones now represents more than 35% of the overall number killed (against 32% last year). The war in Ukraine has also contributed to a doubling of the number of journalists killed outside of their home countries. Of the eight journalists killed since the start of the war in Ukraine, five have been foreign reporters.
In Mexico alone, 11 journalists were murdered. That is nearly 20% of the overall number of journalists killed worldwide. Women, of whom there are an increasing number in journalism, have not been immune to this upward trend. The proportion of women journalists killed in connection with their work has tripled in two years, from 4% in 2020 to more than 12% in 2022.