The United States values freedom of the press as a key component of democratic governance. Unfortunately, in too many places the press has become a target of retaliation by those who feel threatened by freedom of expression and transparency in democratic processes.
In its annual census of journalists imprisoned worldwide, the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, found that more journalists are jailed around the world today than at any time since the CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1990. As of December 1, 2016, 259 journalists were jailed this year compared to the 199 behind bars worldwide in 2015.
Turkey accounts for nearly a third of the global total. Amid an ongoing crackdown that accelerated after a failed coup attempt in July, Turkey jailed at least 81 journalists, accusing them of anti-state activity. In addition, more than 100 news outlets have been silenced.
The jailing of journalists continues to be a global problem, with China, Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia as some of the other worst offenders.
This year marks the first time since 2008 that Iran was not among the top five worst jailers, as many of those sentenced in the 2009 post-election crackdown have served their sentences and been released. However, Tehran is still stifling press freedom by sending journalists to jail, including filmmaker Keyvan Karimi, who is serving a sentence of one year in prison and 223 lashes in relation to his documentary about political graffiti, “Writing on the City.”
The press is too often a target of retaliation by governments that repress freedom of express and transparency. The United States will continue to speak out for the protection of journalists and for their vital role in open societies and defending the truth.