Number of jailed journalists spikes to new global record

Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora Marroquín, founder and president of elPeriódico newspaper, has been detained on money laundering and blackmail charges that are widely seen as retaliation for his publication’s coverage of alleged corruption involving Guatemala’s president and attorney general. (Reuters/Luis Echeverria)

CPJ’s annual prison census has found that 363 reporters were deprived of their freedom as of December 1, 2022 – a new global high that overtakes last year’s record by 20% and marks another grim milestone in a deteriorating media landscape.

This year’s top five jailers of journalists are Iran, China, Myanmar, Turkey, and Belarus, respectively. A key driver behind authoritarian governments’ increasingly oppressive efforts to stifle the media: trying to keep the lid on broiling discontent in a world disrupted by COVID-19 and the economic fallout from Russia’s war on Ukraine, writes CPJ Editorial Director Arlene Getz.

“The record number of journalists in jail is a crisis that mirrors an erosion of democracy globally,” says CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg. “This year’s prison census brings into sharp relief the lengths governments will go to silence reporting that seeks to hold power to account. Criminalizing journalism has impacts far beyond the individual in jail: it stifles vital reporting that helps keep the public safe, informed, and empowered.” 

Join us in our call to #FreeThePress!

Jimmy can’t be silenced

Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily and Next Digital. Lai is this year’s winner of CPJ’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award for “extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.” And he now sits in jail for his stubborn refusal to join most of the rest of the media by curbing his openly pro-democracy and anti-communist editorial line in Apple Daily. He could remain there for the rest of his life.

Watch an interview with Lai’s son, Sebastien Lai, who shared the story of his father’s courage in the face of crackdowns from Chinese authorities.

Read more about Jimmy Lai here.