Reuters journalist Wa Lone tapes his mouth in a protest over his jailed colleagues on 12 December 2017 in Myanmar. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing / EPA

15 December 2017 (Los Angeles Times) – This last year has been a dangerous one for journalists around the globe — a record 262 men and women are imprisoned because of the nature of the work they do, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. It’s part of a disturbing trend of attacking and undermining institutions that exist to hold public officials accountable and to bring light into some of the darkest corners of the world.

Turkey and Egypt — two U.S. allies — and China account for about half of the detained journalists, but the problem extends widely. Here’s what happened just this week: Two Reuters staffers who had been working on stories about the Myanmar government’s violent ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Rakhine State were arrested under that country’s Official Secrets Act; a journalist writing about corruption was jailed in Tajikistan; and a French documentary filmmaker was detained in Kashmir by Indian authorities.

Most appalling is that the list of 262 includes some journalists who were nabbed a decade ago or longer by governments that have refused to divulge their whereabouts or even whether they are alive; some are likely dead. In fact, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 37 journalists were killed this year; 13 of them were murdered and the rest were killed covering combat or working in other risky conditions.

President Trump doesn’t bear the responsibility for these deaths and internments, of course. Over the last decade, the annual number of jailed journalists averaged 183, with a low of 125 in 2008. But Trump’s rhetoric has given cover to regimes that not only have oppressed journalists, but seek to discredit their work.

Trump has spent more than a year attacking critical coverage as “fake news”; taking his cue, authoritarian regimes have used similar language to dismiss coverage that exposes scandals, highlights egregious behavior or simply displeases them. The Chinese Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, ran an op-ed recently citing Trump’s “fake news” screeds as cause to distrust all U.S. coverage of China and its policies. […] Syrian President Bashar Assad and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro similarly dismissed negative coverage of their repressive regimes’ actions as “fake news.” [more]

A record number of journalists worldwide are behind bars for doing their jobs

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