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More journalists behind bars today than at any time since 1996, says CPJ

As of 1 December there are 145 reporters, editors and photojournalists behind bars: the highest tally in 14 years, says a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Iran and China are the worst jailers with 34 imprisoned journalists apiece, while Eritrea, Burma and Uzbekistan fill in the worst five.

In Iran, there has been a sustained assault on critical voices since the 2009 post-election crackdown. In the last two months alone, four journalists have been detained. Navid Mohebbi, an 18-year-old blogger covering women's rights, is the youngest person in CPJ's tally. Syrian blogger Tal al-Mallohi is not much older than him - she turned 19 in jail, detained for almost one year.

A series of imprisonments of Uighur and Tibetan journalists, from the latter half of 2009 and into 2010, accounts for the increase in China (from 24 jailed journalists in 2009). Uighur and Tibetan journalists covered ethnic issues and the violent regional unrest of recent years, topics that are officially banned.

In Eritrea, 17 journalists are imprisoned, while 11 of the detainees have been held in secret locations without charge for a decade. According to unconfirmed reports, four of the journalists jailed may have died due to mistreatment. Burma has 13 journalists behind bars, including Hla Hla Win who was arrested after interviewing Buddhist monks for a story linked to the anniversary of the 2007 Saffron Revolution. Uzbekistan holds six journalists in detention.

CPJ research found that the use of anti-state charges - treason, subversion or acting against national interests - make up the greatest cause of journalist imprisonments. Currently, at least 72 journalists are being held on such charges around the globe. CPJ says "the motivation is nearly always the same: to crush those who challenge the authority of the state."

Governments also use charges of criminal defamation and bypass due process entirely to silence critical journalists and keep them behind bars. The tally includes 64 freelance journalists, who are more vulnerable without the legal and monetary support of a media outlet. As well, 69 online journalists constitute almost half of all those imprisoned.

To have a closer look at the 145 cases, please read the full report:

Iran, China drive prison tally to 14-year high

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