Credit Geoff McGhee/CPJ

‘A disturbing sign for press freedom’: A record 293 journalists imprisoned worldwide, the worst in 30 years

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There are a record 293 journalists jailed worldwide for doing their job, according to CPJ’s 2021 prison census, the worst number CPJ has recorded since we began keeping track in 1992. Meanwhile, killings of journalists also continue to persist, with 24 documented by CPJ so far this year.

The reasons for the relentless climb in the numbers of detained journalists differ between countries. But all reflect a stark trend: a growing intolerance of independent reporting. Invoking new tech and security laws, repressive regimes from Asia to Europe to Africa cracked down harshly on the independent press. China continues to be the world’s worst jailer, with 50 journalists behind bars, followed by Myanmar and Egypt. India is one of the deadliest countries for journalists, with five journalists killed for their work.

Read the full report here, learn more about cases of journalists killed and imprisoned this year, and since 1992, in CPJ’s database of attacks on the press, check out the report coverage in the media here, and engage with us on social media using the hashtag #pressfreedom.

Regional highlights

Global press freedom updates

  • Two Myanmar journalists injured, arrested while covering anti-military protest
  • Sri Lanka army soldiers attack Tamil journalist covering commemoration for civil war dead
  • Iraqi police arrest Al-Ahd TV reporter Hamid Majed after luring him to police station
  • CPJ welcomes convictions in retrial for Serbian journalist Slavko Ćuruvija’s murder
  • New Greek criminal code amendment threatens journalists with jail for spreading ‘false’ information


Left photo: Dmitry Muratov (left) poses with CPJ’s 2007 International Press Freedom Award presented to him by U.S. journalist Katrina vanden Heuvel. (CPJ) Right photo: Maria Ressa, right, accepts CPJ’s 2018 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award from CPJ board member Sheila Coronel. (Getty Images)

CPJ is excited to celebrate alongside press freedom supporters around the world as journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov accept the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Friday starting at 7:00 a.m. EST/1 p.m. Oslo time. The prize is awarded to the two prominent journalists for “their courageous fight for freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

In spite of the prestigious award, the two journalists are still under threat for their work. Just this past week, Ressa was handed yet another bogus libel complaint, from a member of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s cabinet. CPJ and the #HoldTheLine Coalition spoke out, demanding that the latest complaint and any other remaining charges she faces, be dropped immediately. Meanwhile, Muratov and his outlet Novaya Gazeta were fined last month under Russia’s foreign agent law.

Join us in congratulating them both and show your support on social media with the hashtag #NobelPeacePrize and make sure to tag us @pressfreedom.

This week is the U.S. government’s inaugural Summit for Democracy, featuring dozens of countries around the world. The goal is for countries to pledge to defend against authoritarianism, fight corruption, and promote respect for human rights. All three require a free press, but CPJ has documented many of the participating countries imprisoning journalists, keeping them under surveillance, or failing to punish their attackers. Read more about our action items governments can take to strengthen press freedom.

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