China overtakes Turkey as top jailer of journalists

China this year ended Turkey’s three-year leadership as the top jailer of journalists, according to data published by press freedom advocacy group the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) on Wednesday. 

At least 250 journalists were imprisoned around the world, the CPJ report said. China ranks first with 48 journalists in prison, while the number of journalists behind bars in Turkey has fallen to 47 from 68 in 2018.  

The CPJ said the figures did not imply an improved situation in Turkey, as the fall in the number of jailed journalists reflected the successful efforts by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to stamp out independent reporting and criticism.

“With the industry gutted by government shutdowns and takeovers, and scores of journalists in exile, jobless, or cowed into self-censorship, authorities on October 24 enacted a legislative package that granted new appeals on convictions for certain offences - including ‘propaganda for a terrorist organisation’, a favourite charge of prosecutors - and shortened some pre-trial detention periods,” it said. 

“Dozens of journalists not currently jailed in Turkey are still facing trial or appeal and could yet be sentenced to prison, while others have been sentenced in absentia and face arrest if they return to the country,” CPJ said.