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China biggest jailer of journalists, as press dangers persist: Watchdog

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AFP, Washington :
At least 250 journalists are jailed around the world, with the largest number held in China, amid a growing crackdown by authoritarian regimes on independent media, a press watchdog group said on Wednesday.
Many of those imprisoned face "anti-state" charges or are accused of producing "false news," according to the report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists which also cited Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea, Vietnam, and Iran for their jailing of journalists.
The press freedom watchdog said it counted at least 48 journalists jailed in China, one more than in 2018, as President Xi Jinping ramps up efforts to control the media.
That put China ahead of Turkey, which has 47 imprisoned journalists-and the largest number over the previous three years.
But Beijing defended its press freedoms on Wednesday and said the Chinese government was simply carrying out the rule of law. "No one is above the law," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a press briefing, before advising reporters to consider what "illegal things" the 48 jailed journalists did.
The report also said the situation in Turkey, which had 68 journalists jailed last year, is not really an improvement but "reflects the successful efforts by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stamp out independent reporting and criticism."
The CPJ said the Turkish government has shut down more than 100 news outlets and lodged terror-related charges against many of their staff, putting many reporters out of work and intimidating others.
"Dozens of journalists not currently jailed in Turkey are still facing trial or appeal and could yet be sentenced to prison, while others have been sentenced in absentia and face arrest if they return to the country," the committee said. The report said authoritarianism, instability and protests in the Middle East led to a rise in the number of journalists locked up in the region, with Saudi Arabia on a par with Egypt as the third worst jailer worldwide, each with 26 imprisoned.
In Saudi Arabia, no charges have been disclosed against 18 of the journalists behind bars, and CPJ expressed concern over reports of "beating, burning and starving political prisoners, including four journalists."
Several of the arrests in Egypt came ahead of protests against corruption in September, which included calls for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to resign.
Campaigners say the global total of 250 remains disturbingly high even if it is slightly below the 255 counted in 2018 and the record 273 in 2016.
"CPJ believes that journalists should not be imprisoned for doing their jobs," the group said in its report.
It cited the case of Chinese freelance journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin, arrested in October after writing about marching with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
It also highlighted the case of Iranian economics reporter Mohammad Mossaed, detained after tweeting during an internet shutdown intended to suppress news of protests against high fuel prices.
Globally, the number charged with "false news" rose to 30 compared with 28 last year. This charge is used most frequently in Egypt but has also been leveled against journalists in Russia and Singapore.
(Reuters) - China imprisoned at least 48 journalists in 2019, more than any other country, displacing Turkey as the most oppressive place for the profession, a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists report said on Wednesday.
At least 250 journalists were imprisoned worldwide this year, according to the report, which the committee compiles annually. The total last year was 255, said the report by the New York-based CPJ.
China's total rose by one since last year. The report noted that "the number has steadily increased since President Xi Jinping consolidated political control of the country."
"A crackdown in Xinjiang province - where a million members of Muslim ethnic groups have been sent to internment camps - has led to the arrests of dozens of journalists, including some apparently jailed for journalistic activity years earlier," the report said.
Asked about the report by at a regular briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said U.S.-based institutions had no credibility.
When asked about the number of journalists jailed in China, Hua said she could not confirm the figure, adding that China was a country where the rule of law prevailed and no one was above the law.
"You should feel lucky that you work in Beijing and not in Washington," she told reporters.
Turkey imprisoned 47 journalists in 2019, down from 68 last year. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both with 26; Eritrea with 16; Vietnam, with 12; and Iran with 11 were the next-most oppressive countries for journalists, the report said.
It noted that "authoritarianism, instability, and protests" this year had led to an increase in the number of journalists imprisoned in the Middle East.
About 8% of those imprisoned globally are women, down from 13% last year, the report said. Politics, human rights and corruption were the subjects most likely to land journalists in jail, it said.
The report is a snapshot of the journalists imprisoned on Dec. 1 each year, the committee said. It does not include those who have been released earlier or journalists taken by non-state entities such as militant groups.
China imprisoned at least 48 journalists in 2019, more than any other country, displacing Turkey as the most oppressive place for the profession, a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists report said on Wednesday.
At least 250 journalists were imprisoned worldwide this year, according to the report, which the committee compiles annually. The total last year was 255, said the report by the New York-based CPJ.
China's total rose by one since last year. The report noted that "the number has steadily increased since President Xi Jinping consolidated political control of the country."
"A crackdown in Xinjiang province - where a million members of Muslim ethnic groups have been sent to internment camps - has led to the arrests of dozens of journalists, including some apparently jailed for journalistic activity years earlier," the report said.
Turkey imprisoned 47 journalists in 2019, down from 68 last year. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both with 26; Eritrea with 16; Vietnam, with 12; and Iran with 11 were the next-most oppressive countries for journalists, the report said.
It noted that "authoritarianism, instability, and protests" this year had led to an increase in the number of journalists imprisoned in the Middle East.
About 8% of those imprisoned globally are women, down from 13% last year, the report said. Politics, human rights and corruption were the subjects most likely to land journalists in jail, it said.
The report is a snapshot of the journalists imprisoned on Dec. 1 each year, the committee said. It does not include those who have been released earlier or journalists taken by non-state entities such as militant groups.

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