The repression of press freedom is cruel to women: a historical record of 78 journalists imprisoned

The repression of press freedom is cruel to women. This year, 78 journalists were imprisoned around the world, which represents an increase of 27.9% compared to 2021, when an increase of almost 20% had already been registered then.

A reflection of “the growing feminization of the profession” and that they are not free from reprisals, since today they already represent 14.6% of all those incarcerated, when five years ago they did not reach 7%.

These are figures from the annual report of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which details that the number of male reporters in prison grew by 11.2% this year, so that there are 533 journalists —men and women— behind bars for practicing their profession, 13.4% more than in 2021. Of these, 83 are non-professional journalists and 18 are media workers.

Four countries have imprisoned 70% of women: China (19), Iran (18), Burma (10) and Belarus (9). They include Zhang Zhan, sentenced to four years for causing a “riot” by covering the pandemic through social media, and Huang Xueqin, who has been in prison for a year, awaiting trial, for reporting on corruption, pollution industry and the harassment of women and girls.

Iran has sent fifteen women to prison after the protests that broke out in mid-September over the death of Mahsa Amini, detained by the morality police for wearing “inappropriate clothing”. Three others —including Narges MohammadiRSF Courage Award 2022— were imprisoned before the demonstrations, as reported in the 2022 Balance of journalists imprisoned, murdered, kidnapped and disappeared around the world.

“This high number of imprisoned journalists confirms the will of the Iranian authorities to systematically silence the voices of women,” explains Reporters Without Borders, which recalls that Nilufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadithe first to speak out after the death of Mahsa Amini, are accused of a crime for which they could be sentenced to death: “Propaganda against the system and conspiracy to act against national security.”

Among the ten imprisoned in Burma is Htet Htet Khine, who covered the demonstrations after the 2021 coup, sentenced to six years and hard labor for “incitement to hatred against the army.” And among the nine dams in Russia stands out maryna zolatavaincluded in the official list of “terrorists” and in “pretrial detention” for a year and a half.

An activist demands the release of journalist Zhang Zhan in Hong Kong. Kin Cheung (AP)

Reporters Without Borders denounces the treatment received in Vietnam by Pham Doan Trangsentenced to nine years for her critical articles, Turkey’s harassment of media accused of sympathizing with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Egypt’s tricks to jail press freedom advocates such as hala fahmyfor “membership of a terrorist group” and dissemination of “false news”.

All these regimes appear in the lowest positions of the World Press Freedom Classification 2022, which collects data from 180 countries and at the bottom of which are North Korea and Eritrea. They are followed by Iran (178), Burma (176), China (175), Vietnam (174), Egypt (168) and Turkey (149), although RSF also stresses that there are two journalists imprisoned by Saudi Arabia (166) and as many others. by Guatemala (124).

The five countries with the most prisoners

If we add the men, 54% of imprisoned reporters are concentrated in five countries: China (110), Burma (62), Iran (47), Vietnam (39) and Belarus (31). RSF highlights the arrests of Cameroonian Amadou Vamoulké, Algerian Mohamed Mouloudj, Australian Julian Assange, Egyptian Alaa Abdel Fattah and Russian ivan safronovsentenced to 22 years for revealing “State secrets” already published on the internet.

China deserves a separate chapter, where the octogenarian Yiu Mantin He has been behind bars since 2014, accused of “smuggling prohibited products”, for trying to publish a book on President Xi Jinping. Dozens of Uyghur professionals in Xinjiang have also been jailed, as well as the founder and six employees of the daily. Apple Daily.

“This new record of journalists in prison confirms the imperious and urgent need to resist these unscrupulous powers and to exercise our active solidarity with all those who defend the ideal of freedom, independence and pluralism of information”, has warned Christophe Deloire, secretary general of RSF, who accuses authoritarian regimes of filling their prisons “at full speed”.

Murdered in the exercise of journalism

As of December 1, 2022, when the report was closed, 57 journalists were killed worldwide, 18.8% more than the previous year. Reporters Without Borders points out that the increase in deaths is due to the war in Ukraine, where in just six months eight professionals were killed, such as the Ukrainian Maks Levin or the French Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff.

64.9% of the murders took place in countries “considered at peace” and 47.4%, in Latin American territory: eleven in Mexico (almost 20%), six in Haiti and three in Brazil (three). Hence, Reporters Without Borders considers it “the most dangerous region in the world for journalists.”

And 35.1% of the murders occurred in conflict zones, three points more than in 2021. 14% were foreign journalists, a figure that rises because five of the eight reporters killed in Ukraine They died far from their country of origin.

Of the 57 journalists murdered in the exercise of their profession, seven were women (12.3%). Once again, RSF recalls that its greater presence corresponds to the increase in percentages. Thus, the deaths have tripled since 2020, when they only represented 4% of the deceased.

kidnapped and disappeared

In addition, at least 65 professionals in the sector remain kidnapped: 42 in Syria, eleven in Yemen, eleven in Iraq and one in Mali. Twenty months have passed since the French Olivier Dubois was abducted by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM), affiliated with Al Qaeda in Mali, while the American Austin Tice He has been held in Syria for a decade.

Finally, the trace of Dmytro Khiliuk in Ukraine and from Roberto Carlos Flores Mendoza in Mexico, so that since 2003 there are already 49 missing journalists.

Among them are three women, two Mexican and one Peruvian, according to Reporters Without Borders, which highlights in its report the case of the British Dom Phillips, murdered in Brazil while investigating the fight of local tribes against poaching and the exploitation of resources. natives of the Amazon.

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