A record number of journalists were “arbitrarily” imprisoned or detained in the past year, according to a report published on December 14by . With a total of 488 journalists imprisoned worldwide, and 60 being held hostage, the number has risen 20 percent from last year.
Additionally, the RSF report said it had “never seen so many female journalists detained, with the overall number of 60 representing a third more than 2020".
“The number of journalists detained in connection with their work has never been this high since RSF began publishing its annual round-up in 1995,” it said.
The “exceptional surge” is largely due to three countries, the report said: Myanmar, due to the military coup; Belarus, after a crackdown following Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed reelection; and China, described as “tightening its grip on Hong Kong, the special administrative region once seen as a regional model of respect for press freedom”.
India figures as one of the “five most dangerous countries” for the media – after Mexico, Afghanistan and Yemen, and just before Pakistan – with four journalists killed in 2021, including Avinash Jha, Chennakeshavalu, and Sulabh Srivastava.
“As in previous years, journalists located in the northern ‘Hindi Belt’ half of India were more vulnerable,” the report said. “Three of the four journalists killed in India in 2021 were from this region, which has a more vibrant but often anarchic economy that encourages the development of criminal activities with the complicity of the police and local administration. Journalists who try to cover these activities prove to be easy targets.”
The report also said that India was one of 10 countries accounting for “three-quarters of fatalities” in the last five years.
China was named as the “biggest jailer of journalists for the fifth year running” as well as the biggest jailer of female journalists.
Though the number of detentions rose, RSF noted that the number of deaths decreased, with 46 deaths recorded between January 1, 2021 to December 1, 2021. “You have to go back to 2003 to find another year with fewer than 50 journalists killed,” the report stated.
This is in stark contrast to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ last week which said, “A record 293 journalists were jailed for their work globally this year”.
Both reports differ in methodology, however. CPJ’s report “accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state actors”. RSF’s round-up includes “professional journalists, non-professional journalists and media workers”.