China, Egypt are worst jailers of journalists worldwide

Total number imprisoned globally falls slightly, CPJ finds

New York, December 15, 2015–China is holding 49 journalists behind bars, the highest number ever recorded there, making it the worst jailer of journalists worldwide for the second year in a row, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. The number of journalists jailed in Egypt and Turkey also rose dramatically in 2015, even as the number of journalists imprisoned globally declined modestly from the record highs of the past three years. Rounding out the top 10 worst jailers of journalists in 2015 are Iran, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Vietnam.

Globally, there were 199 journalists behind bars on December 1, 2015. CPJ’s list does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year. Detailed accounts of each journalist can be found at For the second year since CPJ began compiling surveys of imprisoned journalists in 1990, not a single journalist in the Americas was imprisoned in relation to work on December 1.

“The majority of jailed journalists are concentrated in just a handful of countries, including Turkey and Egypt, which have both nearly doubled the number of journalists in jail in the past year,” said Joel Simon, Executive Director of CPJ. “The situation highlights that those governments who seek to silence criticism and stifle investigation through the use of prison are global outliers whose abusive practices must be condemned.”

Egypt was holding 23 journalists behind bars compared with 12 last year. In Turkey, the number of journalists jailed doubled to 14 over the same period; they include Iraqi journalist Mohammed Ismael Rasool, a fixer and translator for VICE. At a press conference in Brussels today, CPJ EU Correspondent Jean-Paul Marthoz will discuss these findings with representatives from the European Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which also released statistics today.

Of the 199 journalists imprisoned worldwide, more than half worked online. Freelancers made up less than one third of imprisoned journalists, a percentage that has declined steadily since 2011. The most common charges used to put journalists in jail were anti-state. For example, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has been held in Iran for more than 500 days on charges including espionage.

CPJ’s prison census does not include journalists who disappear or are abducted by non-state entities such as criminal gangs or militant groups. Their cases are classified as “missing” or “abducted.” For example, CPJ estimates that at least 40 journalists are missing in the Middle East and North Africa, many of whom are believed held by militant groups including Islamic State.


CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

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