attacks against media

Nearly 550 journalists worldwide will welcome new year in prison – RSF

Jairo Bolledo

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Nearly 550 journalists worldwide will welcome new year in prison – RSF

JAILED. A file photo of a person under detention.

Rappler

According to Reporters Without Borders, a total of 779 journalists were jailed in 2023, and 547 remain under detention – either in prison or under house arrest – in 45 nations

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 547 journalists will welcome the new year, 2024, in prison, nongovernmental organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Sunday, December 31.

Based on the RSF’s round-up, a total of 779 journalists were jailed in 2023, and 547 remain under detention – either in prison or under house arrest – in 45 nations. Majority of the imprisoned journalists were concentrated in Belarus, China, Myanmar, and Vietnam – three of which were Asian countries.

The RSF said China was the biggest jailer of journalists with 121 jailed, followed by Myanmar with 69.

“Each journalist in prison is a journalist prevented from working. It’s also a journalist who will be intimidated in the future. And it’s hundreds or even thousands of colleagues feeing the threat of imprisonment hanging over them,” the RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“So, the right to news and information of millions could be violated. Behind these statistics, there are human tragedies and political consequences,” he added.

Meanwhile, RSF noted that the 2023 number was slightly fewer compared to last year’s count, where 569 welcomed the new year under detention.

In terms of sentencing journalists, Myanmar imposed the longest jail term this year – 20 years – to a photojournalist named Sai Zaw Thaike, who faced charges that include disinformation and sedition. The jail time imposed against women journalists was also record-breaking, according to the RSF.

Since 2019, no woman was sanctioned with more than 10 years jail time. However, six of the eight journalists who have the longest sentences in 2023 were women, the RSF noted.

These were the following:

  • Iran: Elaheh Mohammadi and Niloofar Hamedi both sentenced to 12 to 13 years in prison
  • Belarus: Maryna Zolatava, Liudmila Chekina, and Valeriya Kastsiuhova all sentenced to 10 to 12 years
  • Burundi: Floriane Irangabiye sentenced to 10 years
In Palestine-Israel

In Palestine and Israel, where the war continues to affect millions of people, the RSF said the number of Palestinian journalists arrested and detained by Israel “has increased considerably” when the war started on October 7.

Of the 34 Palestinian journalists detained by Israel, majority were held without a charge or proper trial. Nineteen of these journalists were subjected to administrative detention – a form of detention that can be done by Israeli forces without any judicial procedure for “security reasons,” said the RSF.

“This use of detention to harass Palestinian reporters, mainly in the West Bank, comes in addition to the deadly persecution in the Gaza Strip, where at least 76 journalists have been killed by the Israeli military since the start of the war, including at least 16 in the course of their work,” the NGO added.

Philippines in focus

The Philippines was not directly mentioned in the RSF’s statement, but the country remains a dangerous place for media workers.

The Philippines ranked 132nd out of 180 countries in the RSF’s Press Freedom Index for 2023. The annual index shows the ranking of 180 countries based on political, legal, sociocultural, economic, and media safety factors.

In terms of detained media workers in the Philippines, community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio remains under detention for almost four years now, under two Philippine presidents. She was arrested in Tacloban City, Leyte, in Eastern Visayas in February 2020 during a series of raids by the Philippine military.

Cumpio was arrested amid the crackdown of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s administration against progressive individuals. After Cumpio, another journalist was jailed. Lady Ann Salem, along with six other activists, were arrested on December 10, 2020, during the celebration of International Human Rights Day.

Three months later, Salem was released from detention along with trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago.

Must Read

IN NUMBERS: Filipino journalists killed since 1986

IN NUMBERS: Filipino journalists killed since 1986

Filipino journalists also continue to be killed. Under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration, four journalists were killed so far – the latest being Juan Jumalon, who was shot dead in Misamis Occidental while on air.

A total of 199 journalists have been killed since 1986, according to the combined tally of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and Rappler. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.