The latest crackdowns on freedom of press in Iran pushes the total tally to 533, breaking previous records.
A death knell for journalism?
The total number of reporters imprisoned has reached a new peak, according to international watchdog organisation Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres) or the RSF. 533 journalists were put in prison in 2022, which is up from 488 last year, found the RSF’s Annual Press Freedom Review.
More than half are jailed in only five countries:
China, which remains “the world’s biggest jailer of journalists” with 110, followed by Myanmar with 62, Iran with 47, Vietnam with 39 and Belarus with 31.
Iran’s crackdown on journalists has brought the number higher than last year. 34 of the imprisoned journalists in Iran have been put in jail following the protests in September over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for breaching the country’s strict dress code.
A little over one-thirds of journalists in prison have actually been convicted. The remaining two-thirds are in prison without any trial.
75% of journalists that have been imprisoned have occurred in Asia and the Middle East, said the RSF.
(Image Source: Committee to Protect Journalists)
The situation in India
In India, seven journalists have been put in jail in 2022, a record high for the second consecutive year since CPJ began its prison census in 1992. These seven journalists are Siddique Kappan, Gautam Navlakha, Manan Dar, Sajad Gul, Aasif Sultan, Fahad Shah and Rupesh Kumar Singh.
India’s treatment of the media continues to draw criticism, in particular for the use of the preventive detention law, the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). This law has been used to keep Kashmiri journalists Fahad Shah, Aasif Sultan, and Sajad Gul behind bars after they were granted court-ordered bail.
Most of the jailed journalists are being charged under the anti-terrorism law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Aasif Sultan, a reporter for the Kashmir Narrator, has been in jail since August 27, 2018 (4 years 3 months). He was initially arrested in a UAPA case but was arrested again under the PSA in April this year after he got bail in the case.
Siddique Kappan, a Malayalam freelance journalist, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on October 5, 2020 and has been in jail for 2 years and 2 months.
Gautam Navlakha was arrested on April 14, 2020. He spent more than 30 months in jail before he was later put under house arrest.
Manan Dar, another freelance journalist, was arrested in Jammu and Kashmir on October 10, 2021 for allegedly being involved in a “militant conspiracy” case.
Sajad Gul of the Kashmir Walla has been imprisoned since January 2022. He was first arrested for simply tweeting a video of a protest. After he got bail in the case, he was re-arrested under the PSA.
Fahad Shah, also of the Kashmir Walla, was taken in on February this year after he was accused by the Army of spreading “fake news” regarding an event at a school. Two more cases were then filed against him.
Rupesh Kumar Singh was arrested in July 2022. Two other cases were filed against him later.