Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) has revealed that China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Syria are the world’s biggest jailers of journalists for the second year.
In a report the organisation stated that the number of journalists in prison this year is just two less than it was this time last year, when the number stood at 389.
“This means that the number of journalists held worldwide is still at a historically high level,” it said, adding: “More than half (61%) are held in just five countries.”
RSF said that the number of female journalists in prison has risen by 35 per cent, from 31 a year ago to 42 now, noting that most of the newly detained women journalists are held in Belarus (four) and in two of the countries where the coronavirus crisis has brought a marked increase in repression – Iran (four) and China (two).
Based on data gathered by RSF’s staff and Tracker 19, there was a fourfold increase in arbitrary arrests of journalists during the first three months of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world (March-May 2020).
From the start of February to the end of November, the report added, arbitrary arrests alone represented 35 per cent of the press freedom violations logged, while physical violence and threats against journalists represented 30 per cent.
It also stated that most arrested journalists were held for just a few hours or, in some cases, a few days or weeks, noting that 14 journalists who were arrested in connection with their coverage of the pandemic are still in detention.