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Online Journalists jailed in record numbers

09 December, 2008
By Allison Orr

More Internet journalists are jailed worldwide today than journalists working in any other medium.  This is the finding of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) annual prison census.  For the first time, online journalists, including bloggers, web-based reporters and online editors, represent the largest category of media workers jailed.

The CPJ’s survey found a total of 125 journalists behind bars, at least 56 of whom are online journalists, showing that they make up fully 45 per cent of the total of imprisoned journalists.  The number of online journalists has increased steadily since the CPJ recorded the first jailed Internet writer in its 1997 census.

The high number of online journalists in jails may be a result of the nature of online reporting.  Whereas print journalists are usually employed by a media corporation and therefore have access to protection and legal resources, online journalists are often freelance or are solitary bloggers.

Says CPJ’s Executive Director Joel Simon, "The image of the solitary blogger working at home in pajamas may be appealing, but when the knock comes on the door they are alone and vulnerable.  All of us must stand up for their rights--from Internet companies to journalists and press freedom groups. The future of journalism is online and we are now in a battle with the enemies of press freedom who are using imprisonment to define the limits of public discourse."

Countries named as having imprisoned online journalists include Eritrea, Israel, Iran, Cuba,  the United States, and, not surprisingly, China, where 24 of 28 jailed journalists worked online.

The census has also found that in more than one in ten cases, governments have used a variety of charges unrelated to journalism, such as drug possession, to retaliate against critical writers.

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