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China leads world in jailed journalists for second year running

Country detaining 47 reporters as of December: Committee to Protect Journalists

Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan

Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China has the most imprisoned reporters of any country in the world for the second year in a row, counting 47 in total, according to an annual report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Tuesday (Dec. 15).

Many of the jailed Chinese journalists had been reporting in China’s Xinjiang region, where it is estimated that over a million Uyghurs have been held in concentration camps and hundreds of thousands have been forced into labor. In many instances, the charges against the journalists working in Xinjiang have not been made public.

Reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic has been another reason for the imprisonment of journalists in China. This fate has befallen Zhang Zhan (張展), a former lawyer who began posting reports on the outbreak in Wuhan via YouTube and Twitter in early February.

Zhang is currently on a hunger strike and is being force-fed. Her lawyer fears for her survival, per CBS.

Not included in the CPJ report due to the timing of its publication is Bloomberg News assistant Faze Han (范若伊), who was detained last week for allegedly endangering China’s national security.

According to the report, nearly all of the journalists imprisoned in China are Chinese nationals. However, state-run China Global Television Network anchor Cheng Lei (成蕾), an Australian citizen, was arrested in August — also on the charge of allegedly endangering China’s national security.

Additionally, China earlier this year expelled over a dozen staffers for major Western media outlets, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

This year has seen an increase in the number of media workers incarcerated worldwide, with 274 being held at present, the most since the organization began tracking the figure in the early 1990s. The countries with the next three highest numbers of jailed journalists include Turkey with 37, Egypt with 27, and Saudi Arabia with 24.

The report also notes that 67 percent of the journalists held worldwide were detained on anti-state charges, 12 percent on false news charges, 12 percent on retaliatory charges, and 19 percent without any charge.

Only those who are still imprisoned on Dec. 1, when the tally stops, are listed in the annual publication. Therefore, those who were detained for less than a year are not included in the data.