By Abdul Sadiq
For the year 2018, Egypt topped as Africa’s worst jailer of journalists, a press rights group, Committee for the Protection of Journalists, CPJ reported last week.
Egypt according to CPJ’s Prison Census has 25 journalists behind bars for a range of offences including fake news. Eritrea is sub-Saharan Africa’s worst jailer, both countries make the top five countries.
Egypt’s figure moved up by five because as at December 2017, there were 20 journalists in jail.
“In Egypt, at least 25 journalists are in prison as the administration of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has increasingly arrested journalists and added them to existing mass trials.
“Mohamed Ibrahim, a blogger known as “Mohamed Oxygen” who covered allegations of election irregularities and police abuse, is one of more than 40 defendants in one case charged with false news and being members of a banned group.
“National security prosecutors have repeatedly renewed Mohamed Oxygen’s 15-day pretrial detention since his April arrest,” the report stressed.
What the report said about Eritrea
Rounding out the top five worst jailers worldwide is Eritrea. With 16 journalists behind bars, Eritrea continues to imprison more journalists than any country in sub-Saharan Africa; Cameroon is next with seven.
Most of the journalists imprisoned in Eritrea have been in custody since President Isaias Afwerki abruptly shut down the independent media in 2001, and it is unclear whether they are all alive.
The lack of a breakthrough in Eritrean press freedom and other human rights is in contrast to neighboring Ethiopia; the two countries struck a peace deal in June after two decades of hostility, according to news reports.
CPJ found no journalists jailed in relation to their work in Ethiopia for the first time since 2004.
Top jailers of journalists worldwide
There were at least 251 journalists jailed for their work worldwide on Dec 1. These are the worst jailers:
– Turkey 68 – China 47 – Egypt 25 – Saudi Arabia 16 – Eritrea 16 – Vietnam 11 – Azerbaijan 10 – Iran 8 – Cameroon 7 – Bahrain, Syria 6 – Morocco, Russia, Rwanda 4
Other findings from CPJ’s prison census include:
- Ninety-eight percent of jailed journalists are locals imprisoned by their own governments. The five foreign journalists on CPJ’s census include a Ukrainian in Russia and a Russian in Ukraine.
- Thirteen percent, or 33, of the jailed journalists are female, up from 8 percent last year.
- Freelancers accounted for 30 percent of jailed journalists, in line with recent years.
- Politics is the riskiest beat, followed by human rights. Those imprisoned for covering human rights including Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters reporters in Myanmar sentenced to seven years each for violating the Official Secrets Act because of their work uncovering military atrocities in Rakhine state.
CPJ added that its prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups, such as several Yemeni journalists CPJ believes to be held by the Ansar Allah movement, known as the Houthis. These cases are classified as “missing” or “abducted.”