Taliban fighters walk toward journalists during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, on December 28, 2021. (Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP)

Year in review: The most-read press freedom stories of 2022

The Torch is a weekly newsletter from the Committee to Protect Journalists that brings you the latest press freedom and journalist safety news from around the world. Subscribe here.

In 2022, press freedom was under near constant attack.

CPJ recorded the highest number of journalists imprisoned globally for their work in 30 years, with 363 imprisoned as of December 1, 2022. Iranian authorities’ arrests of dozens of journalists amid a brutal crackdown on anti-state protests made it the world’s worst jailer of the press.

CPJ’s annual prison census shows that governments are resorting to retaliatory charges and the abuse of legal structures to punish the press, such as by crafting legislation with vague wording that criminalizes factual reporting. Anti-state charges are used most frequently to imprison journalists, ranging from alleged terrorism to sharing information contrary to official narratives. Alarmingly, in 131 cases, journalists have been jailed with no charge registered at all, leaving them to languish behind bars with little legal recourse.

Throughout 2022, CPJ continued to advocate for journalists unjustly held behind bars. Some highlights:

  • We condemned a Hong Kong court’s harsh prison sentence for pro-democracy media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai—already facing a possible life sentence under the city’s national security law—on charges of fraud, and called for his release. Watch CPJ’s panel discussion about the persecution of Jimmy Lai here.
  • We called for the release of José Rubén Zamora, the founder and director of the elPeriódico newspaper, who has been in pretrial detention since July. Watch CPJ’s interview with his son here.
  • CPJ honored five courageous journalists from around the world at our 32nd International Press Freedom Awards ceremony.
  • And we joined our partners in sending a letter calling for the U.S. government to drop criminal and extradition proceedings against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose prosecution could set a harmful legal precedent by opening the way for journalists to be tried under the Espionage Act.

We know that advocacy and direct assistance make a difference. This year, at least 130 imprisoned journalists were released, convictions were achieved in the murders of 12 journalists, and CPJ provided crucial assistance to more than 520 journalists in 49 countries, according to our internal data.

CPJ’s correspondents around the world cover press freedom news and provide analysis all year. The 10 most-read feature articles for 2022 include:

‘Red-tagging’ of journalists looms over Philippine elections — CPJ Senior Southeast Asia Representative Shawn W. Crispin

Exiled Bangladeshi journalist Kanak Sarwar says sister’s detention won’t silence him — CPJ Asia Researcher Sonali Dhawan

Ukraine editor Olga Rudenko on starting Kyiv Independent as Russia amasses troops on border — Ann Cooper, professor emerita, Columbia Journalism School

Afghanistan’s intelligence agency emerges as new threat to independent media — CPJ Asia Researcher Waliullah Rahmani and Senior Program Consultant Steven Butler

Journalists face growing hostility as Ethiopia’s civil war persists — CPJ Sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo

Threats, attacks, and insults: Canadian reporters on covering vaccine mandate protests — Rebecca Redelmeier, former CPJ audience engagement associate

Dozhd TV editor Tikhon Dzyadko on why he fled Russia and shut his broadcaster down — CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said

In 2022, journalist killings continue unabated in Mexico amid a climate of impunity — CPJ Latin America and the Caribbean Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick and Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna

Indian journalist Rana Ayyub on facing death threats and a money laundering probe — CPJ India Representative Kunal Majumder

‘Covering a lawless land’: Brazilian journalists on reporting in the Amazon after Dom Phillips’ and Bruno Pereira’s killings — CPJ Brazil Representative Renata Neder

CPJ’s 2022 special reports

  • The number of jailed journalists spikes to a new global record. CPJ’s 2022 census of journalists imprisoned worldwide found 363 reporters jailed for their work as of December 1, 2022.
  • In nearly 80% of the 263 cases of journalists murdered in retaliation for their work globally over the past decade, the perpetrators have faced no punishment, CPJ’s 2022 Global Impunity Index found.
  • A special report on spyware documented how this technology poses an existential crisis for journalism and the future of press freedom around the world.
  • One year after the Taliban takeover, CPJ found Afghan news outlets struggling to survive amid an increasingly restrictive censorship regime targeting independent journalists.
  • CPJ’s one-year assessment of the Biden administration’s record on press freedom found a marked improvement over Trump’s anti-media rhetoric, but with persistent problems such as a backlog of freedom of information requests, restrictions on journalists at the U.S. southern border, and the use of the Espionage Act against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
  • A Safer World for the Truth, a joint initiative led by Free Press Unlimited, CPJ, and Reporters Without Borders, jointly published investigations to push for justice in the cases of killed journalists Sardasht Osman (Iraqi Kurdistan), Gerry Ortega (Philippines), and Elisabeth Blanche Olofio (Central African Republic). Additional investigations will be published in 2023.

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