The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) annual survey of abuses committed against journalists around the world shows a record increase in the number of journalists in detention. In addition, 65 people are being held hostage. The number of journalists killed (46) is the lowest in the last 20 years.
Never before has the number of journalists in jail been so high since the publication of RSF’s annual reports in 1995. As of mid-December 2021, RSF had 488 journalists and media staff imprisoned for their professional activities. Their number has grown by 20% in one year. This exceptional rise in illegal detentions is mainly attributable to three countries: Burma, where the junta seized power by force on February 1, 2021; Belarus, drowned in repression following the controversial re-election of Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020; and China, where Xi Jinping is tightening control over the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, once regarded as a model for free speech for the region.
In addition, never before has RSF counted so many women journalists in prison: 60 of them are currently imprisoned because of their profession. This is a third more (33%) than in 2020. China, which remains the largest reporters’ prison in the world for the fifth consecutive year, is also the country with the largest number of women behind bars (19), including RSF 2021 award winner Zhang Zhan, whose health has become critical. In Belarus, more women were detained (17) than men (15). Among them are two reporters for the independent channel Belsat, Daria Chultsova and Katerina Andreeva, who were sentenced to two years in prison for broadcasting a demonstration unauthorized by the authorities online. Of the 53 detained journalists and media workers who are behind bars in Burma, nine of our colleagues are women.
“The reason for such a high number of illegal detentions of journalists is the result of the activities of three dictatorships,” said RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire, “is a consequence of the intensification of dictatorial tendencies around the world, the accumulation of crises and the lack of any conscience among these regimes. It may also be the result of a new geopolitical alignment of forces, when there is not enough pressure on authoritarian regimes to limit their repressive actions. “
Another figure is striking, but it is just decreasing: only in 2003, the number of killed journalists was less than 50. The figure of 46 killed as of December 1, 2021 is mainly due to a decrease in the intensity of armed conflicts (Syria, Iraq, Yemen) and the mobilization of organizations to protect media freedom, including RSF, by implementing international and national mechanisms to protect journalists. However, despite this historically low figure, on average one journalist is killed for his work almost every week around the world. RSF states that 65% of those killed are destroyed knowingly and deliberately. Mexico and Afghanistan are once again the two most dangerous countries this year, with seven and six fatalities, respectively. Yemen and India tied for third with four deaths in each of these countries.
In addition to publishing dry numbers, RSF’s 2021 report cites some of this year’s highlights: in Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, two journalists (Ali Aboluhom and Pham Chi Dung) were sentenced to the longest prison term this year (15 years ); in Cameroon and Morocco, two journalists face the longest and Kafkaes’ trials (Amadou Wamoulke and Ali Anuzla); the oldest prisoners are held in Hong Kong and Iran (Jimmy Lai is 74 years old, and Kaivan Samimi Behbahani is 73). And in Mali, the only foreign journalist was taken hostage this year – the Frenchman Olivier Dubois, who continues to remain in the hands of his captors.
Since 1995, RSF has compiled an annual survey on violence against journalists. It is based on reliable data collected from January 1st to December 1st of the year when it was published. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) totals for 2021 include both professional and lay journalists and media professionals. RSF carefully collects information that allows it to state with certainty, or at least with a very high degree of certainty, that the arrest, abduction, disappearance or death of a journalist is a direct consequence of his professional activities. Our methodology can explain the differences in these statistics with those of other organizations.
Information taken from the site РЕПОРТЕРЫ БЕЗ ГРАНИЦ | REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS.