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China and Iran Lead Way in Detention of Journalists

According to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, China and Iran are the leading jailers of journalists in the world, with those two states accounting for more than a third of all journalists held behind bars today. Increased arrests by Iran following post-election protests helped make 2009 even worse than 2008, with 11 more arrested worldwide this year than last. In its annual census, the CPJ also found that freelancers (who often write online) are more likely to be jailed than their counterparts at traditional news outlets. Last year was the first time ever that online journalists were more likely to be jailed than traditional ones.

If Iran had thrown just one more journalist in jail on December 1, it would have tied China (which has 24 journalists behind bars), as the leading jailer, a title China has held for the last 11 years. As Joel Simon writes in Slate, as opposed to 10 years ago when most of those Chinese journalists wrote for traditional media outlets, today they are primarily online authors, and this impacts how they are handled by the government:

[O]nline journalists can’t be fired, blacklisted, or, in most cases, bought off precisely because most work independently. They don’t have employers who can be pressured. Chinese authorities have few options when it comes to reining in online critics—censor them, intimidate them, or throw them in jail. This explains why 18 of the 24 journalists imprisoned in China worked online.

In Iran, there’s a similar dynamic. The 23 reporters jailed there fall roughly into two camps—those who worked for print media outlets allied with opposition candidates and those who worked independently online.

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One Response to “China and Iran Lead Way in Detention of Journalists”

  1. RLD Info Says:

    China and Iran both have long strides to go before they will be taken seriously as nations where differences of opinion on fundamental questions of life are accepted. But let’s not get carried away with the bovarism of American moral superiority…

    It was not long ago that a journalist named Gary Webb shot himself in the head because he could not find employment after exposing government crimes involving Iran and anti-communist efforts during the Reagan administration.

    Journalists in the U.S. backed up the government lies to justify Bush’s war in Iraq. Those who knew it was a crock could not openly expose it for fear they would lose “respectability” within the mainstream media demimonde. The major media organs thus became participants in and cheerleaders for the aggression that brought so many consequences for America’s image abroad. Yes, you may say, but one is still entitled to dissent in America. Agreed. Gary Webb’s self-inflicted gunshots aside, we are simply not the paragons of virtue who have the standing to speak with derision about the state of the media of other countries.

    Not to mention, our mainstream media are notoriously queasy about matters involving human sexuality, given our nation’s puritanical past. When you are an advocate for sexual issues, you are not granted the platform in America that you might get in, say, Sweden, the Netherlands, or even Spain.