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One in six journalists jailed worldwide are being held without charge, many for months or years in secret locations, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

CPJ's snapshot of imprisoned journalists as of 1 December found 127 behind bars, the majority of them for anti-state allegations such as divulging state secrets and acting against national interests. The figure is in keeping with the average number of journalists arrested yearly since the introduction of sweeping national security laws in the wake of 11 September - in 2000, there were only 81 imprisonments.

But the proportion of journalists held without charge increased for the third consecutive year. Eritrea and Iran were the main perpetrators, but the United States is also guilty: U.S. authorities have not filed charges against Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj, held for more than five years at Guantánamo Bay, or Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, held in Iraq for more than 19 months. And at least 19 journalists worldwide are being held in secret locations, with Eritrea the worst offender.

"Imprisoning journalists on the basis of assertions alone should not be confused with a legal process. This is nothing less than state-sponsored abduction," CPJ says. "While we believe every one of these 127 journalists should be released, we are especially concerned for those detained without charge because they're often held in abysmal conditions, cut off from their lawyers and their families."

For the ninth year in a row, China is the world's leading jailer of journalists with 29 journalists behind bars, 18 of whom worked online, including Shi Tao, an award-winning journalist serving a 10-year sentence for sending an email about Chinese media restrictions on the Tiananmen Square massacre. Bloggers, online editors, and web-based reporters constitute about 39 percent of journalists jailed worldwide.

Cuba (with 24 journalists behind bars), Eritrea (14), Iran (12), and Azerbaijan (9) round out the top five jailers among the 24 nations that imprison journalists.

CPJ's list does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year, or those who have disappeared or been abducted by non-state entities; details of those cases can be found on CPJ's website at:

Check out the full report here:

(11 December 2007)

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