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Record number of journalists persecuted in 2017 worldwide

14 December 2017

"It is shameful that for the second year in a row, a record number of journalists are behind bars".

A report released Wednesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists gave the estimated number, which was a bit higher than last year's 259, adding that 87 percent of those in jail covered political news in countries with repressive regimes.

According to the organization, Guatemalan Jerson Antonio Xitumul Morales, who works at the site Prensa Comunitaria, has been jailed since November 11 on charges of incitement to crime, threats and illegal detention for his alleged participation in a protest of fishermen against a mining company in the department of Izabal, in eastern Guatemala, in May.

In its annual census, the US-based non-profit CPJ found that almost three-quarters of journalists are jailed on anti-state charges, many under broad and vague terror laws.

Despite releasing some journalists in 2017, Turkey remains the world's worst jailer for the second consecutive year, with 73 journalists behind bars, compared with 81 last year.

The crackdown on the Turkish press that began in early 2016 and accelerated after a failed coup attempt that July-which the government blamed on an alleged terrorist organization led by exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen-continued apace in 2017.

Venezuela is again included on the CPJ census, with the case of journalist Braulio Jatar. Dozens of others face trial, usually for alleged anti-state, terror-related crimes.

"In a just society, no journalist should ever be imprisoned for their work and reporting critically, but 262 are paying that price", said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, according to the organization's press release.

France's Macron says new African force to 'win victories' against terrorists
The African military force will reach 5,000 soldiers next year as planned, according to Macron. "There are attacks every day". Troops have also been a frequent target, including an assault in Niger in October which left four USA soldiers dead.

The crackdown has continued, the advocacy group said, with Turkish authorities accusing some journalists of terrorist activity based exclusively on their reported use of a messaging app, Bylock, or bank accounts at institutions supposedly linked to the coup plotters.

India ranks 13th on CPJ's Global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free.

In China, the number of journalists in jail rose from 38 last year to 41 this year. In Egypt, CPJ found more than half of the jailed journalists have health conditions.

Among them is photographer Mr Mahmoud Abou Zeid, also known as Shawkan, who was arrested covering a violent dispersal of protesters by Egyptian security forces.

The CPJ said 35 journalists had been jailed across the world without any publicly disclosed charge.

The group found that 97 percent of the journalists were jailed in their home countries; that 22 (8 percent) were female; and that 75 were freelancers, accounting for 29 percent of the total.

"Lack of due process in some countries results in such a dearth of information that it's almost impossible for the CPJ to determine what landed a journalist in jail, whether they have any health problems, and sometimes even whether they are alive".

In Gambia, the government of President Adama Barrow has expressed interest in determining what happened to reporter Chief Ebrima Manneh who was arrested in 2006 but had not been seen since at least 2008. Those who died in custody in 2017 or were released prior to December 1 are not included in the year-end total.

Record number of journalists persecuted in 2017 worldwide