[Politech logo]

Politech is the oldest Internet resource devoted to politics and technology. Launched in 1994 by Declan McCullagh, the mailing list has chronicled the growing intersection of law, culture, technology, and politics. Since 2000, so has the Politech web site.

Internet fuels rise in number of jailed journalists: 1 in 3 are Web-based

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: CPJ: Internet fuels rise in number of jailed journalists
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2006 10:26:34 -0500
From: CPJ_Asia <CPJ_Asia@cpj.org>


Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA     Phone: (212) 465‑1004 
  Fax: (212) 465‑9568     Web: www.cpj.org     E-Mail: media@cpj.org

Contact:   Abi Wright

Telephone:  (212) 465-1004 ext. 105

http://www.cpj.org <http://www.cpj.org/>

e-mail: info@cpj.org <mailto:info@cpj.org>

Internet fuels rise in number of jailed journalists

More held without charge or due process, CPJ census also finds

New York, December 7, 2006—The number of journalists jailed worldwide 
for their work increased for the second consecutive year, and one in 
three is now an Internet blogger, online editor, or Web-based reporter, 
according to a new analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

CPJ's annual worldwide census found 134 journalists imprisoned on 
December 1, an increase of nine from the 2005 tally. China, Cuba, 
Eritrea, and Ethiopia are the top four jailers among the 24 nations who 
imprison journalists. Detailed accounts of each imprisoned journalist 
<http://www.cpj.org/attacks06/pages06/imprison_06.html> are posted on 
CPJ’s Web site.

Print reporters, editors, and photographers continue to make up the 
largest professional category, with 67 cases in 2006, but Internet 
journalists are a growing segment of the census and now constitute the 
second largest category, with 49 cases. The number of imprisoned 
journalists whose work appeared primarily on the Web, via e-mail, or in 
another electronic form has increased each year since CPJ recorded the 
first jailed Internet writer in its 1997 census. The 2006 figure is the 
highest number of Internet journalists CPJ has ever tallied in its 
annual survey. The roster of jailed Internet journalists includes 
China’s “citizen” reporters, the independent Cuban writers who file 
reports for overseas Web sites, 
<http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2006/DA_fall_06/prisoner/watson.html>  and 
the U.S. video blogger Joshua Wolf who refused to hand over footage to a 
grand jury.

“We’re at a crucial juncture in the fight for press freedom because 
authoritarian states have made the Internet a major front in their 
effort to control information,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. 
“China is challenging the notion that the Internet is impossible to 
control or censor, and if it succeeds there will be far-ranging 
implications, not only for the medium but for press freedom all over the 

Over all, “antistate” allegations such as subversion, divulging state 
secrets, and acting against the interests of the state are the most 
common charges used to imprison journalists worldwide. Eighty-four 
journalists are jailed under these charges, many by the Chinese, Cuban, 
and Ethiopian governments.

But CPJ also found an increasing number of journalists held without any 
charge or trial at all. Twenty imprisoned journalists, or 15 percent, 
have been denied even the most basic elements of due process, CPJ found. 
Eritrea, which accounts for more than half of these cases, keeps 
journalists in secret locations and withholds basic information about 
their well-being. The United States has imprisoned two journalists 
without charge or trial: Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, 
<http://www.cpj.org/protests/06ltrs/americas/usa07nov06pl.html>  now 
held for eight months in Iraq without due process; and Al-Jazeera 
cameraman Sami al-Haj, 
jailed five years and now held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“In Cuba and in China, journalists are often jailed after summary trials 
and held in miserable conditions far from their families. But the 
cruelty and injustice of imprisonment is compounded where there is zero 
due process and journalists slip into oblivion. In Eritrea, the worst 
abuser in this regard, there is no check on authority and it is unclear 
whether some jailed journalists are even alive,” Simon added.

For the eighth consecutive year, China is the world's leading jailer of 
journalists, with 31 imprisoned. About three-quarters of the cases in 
China were brought under vague “antistate” laws; 19 cases involve 
Internet journalists. China’s list includes Shi Tao, an internationally 
recognized journalist <http://www.cpj.org/awards05/shi_tao.html> 
serving a 10-year sentence for posting notes online detailing propaganda 
department instructions on how to cover the anniversary of the Tiananmen 
Square crackdown. The government declared the instructions a “state secret.”

Cuba ranked second, with 24 reporters, writers, and editors behind bars, 
most of them jailed in the country's massive March 2003 crackdown on 
dissidents and the independent press. Nearly all of those on Cuba’s list 
had filed news and commentary to overseas Web sites. These journalists 
used phone lines and faxes, not computers, to transmit their reports; 
once posted, their articles were seen across the world but almost never 
in Cuba, where the government heavily restricts Internet access.

Eritrea is the leader among African countries, with 23 journalists in 
prison. These prisoners are being held incommunicado, and their 
well-being is a growing source of concern. A non-bylined report, 
circulated on several Web sites in August and deemed by CPJ sources to 
be generally credible, claimed that three of the journalists may have 
died. CPJ and other international organizations have urgently sought 
information from Asmara, 
<http://www.cpj.org/news/2006/africa/eritrea15sept06na.html> but the 
government has refused to provide basic facts about the journalists’ 
whereabouts, their health, or whether they are still alive.

Neighboring Ethiopia has imprisoned 18 journalists, most of whom are 
being tried for treason after being swept up by authorities in a 
November 2005 crackdown on dissent. A CPJ investigation in April 
found no basis for the government’s treason charges. Burma, which is 
holding seven journalists, is fifth among nations, followed by 
Uzbekistan, which is holding five journalists. The United States, 
Azerbaijan, and Burundi are seventh on the list of nations, each having 
jailed three journalists.

Here are other trends and details that emerged in CPJ's analysis:

*	In about 10 percent of cases, governments used a variety of charges 
unrelated to journalism to retaliate against critical writers, editors, 
and photojournalists. Such charges ranged from property damage and 
regulatory violations to drug possession and association with 
extremists. In the cases included in this census, CPJ has determined 
that the charges were most likely lodged in reprisal for the 
journalist’s work.

*	Spreading ethnic or religious “hatred” was the next most common charge 
used to imprison journalists worldwide. Such charges were lodged in 
about four percent of cases.

*	Criminal defamation charges were filed in about three percent of 
cases, a slight decline from the rate recorded in recent years. A 
growing number of nations, particularly in Western Europe, have moved to 
decriminalize defamation and insult.

*	Violations of censorship rules account for another three percent of 
cases. Burma, for example, jailed two journalists in March for violating 
prohibitions on photographing or filming the country’s new capital, 

*	The longest-serving journalists in CPJ's census were Chen Renjie and 
Lin Youping, who were jailed in China in July 1983 for publishing a 
pamphlet titled Ziyou Bao (Freedom Report). Codefendant Chen Biling was 
later executed.

CPJ believes that journalists should not be imprisoned for doing their 
jobs. The organization has sent letters expressing its serious concerns 
to each country that has imprisoned a journalist. In addition, CPJ sent 
requests during the year to Eritrean and U.S. officials seeking details 
in the cases in which journalists were held without publicly disclosed 

CPJ's list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at midnight on December 
1, 2006. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and 
released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at 
www.cpj.org <http://www.cpj.org/> . Journalists remain on CPJ’s list 
until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they 
have been released or have died in custody.

Journalists who either disappear or are abducted by nonstate entities, 
including criminal gangs, rebels, or militant groups, are not included 
on the imprisoned list. Their cases are classified as "missing" or 
"abducted." Details of these cases are also available on CPJ's Web site. 

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works 
to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit 
www.cpj.org <http://www.cpj.org/> .

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Dec 07, 2006 in category free-speech

Get a Politech feed through RSS or Atom [RSS] [Atom]

The Politech general information pages and photographs are copyrighted by Declan McCullagh. Original posts distributed to the mailing list are licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Creative Commons License