India, which claims to be the biggest democracy in the world, has the highest number of journalists killed in retaliation for their work this year, according to a Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report.
Four journalists have been murdered in India for their work as of December 1, 2021, while a fifth died on a “dangerous assignment”, the US-based watchdog said in its annual survey on press freedom and attacks on the media.
“Seven Indian media persons were behind bars as a result of their reporting as of December 1,” it added.
As per the latest ‘Prison Census’ by, 293 journalists were jailed worldwide in 2021, a new record compared to a revised total of 280 in 2020.
The census also notes that at least 24 were reported as “murdered,” while 18 others died in “circumstances too murky to determine whether they were specific targets”.
According to the methodology of the report, the census “accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-State actors”.
It also does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year.
According to The Print, the four Indian journalists confirmed to have been killed for their work are Avinash Jha (BNN News) in November, Chennakesavalu (EV5) and Manish Singh (Sudarshan TV) in August, and Sulabh Srivastava (ABP News) in June.
One journalist, Raman Kashyap of Sadhna TV Plus, died on a “dangerous assignment”, namely the Lakhimpur Kheri violence in October, it added.
The seven imprisoned journalists include two from Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) — Aasif Sultan of the Kashmir Narrator (since 2018) and photojournalist Manan Dar (since October 2021).
The number of journalists jailed around the world set another record in 2021. Invoking new tech and security laws, repressive regimes from Asia to Europe to Africa cracked down harshly on the independent press, stated the report.
Myanmar, which had no journalists in jail as of December 1, 2020, saw the military’s post-coup repression leave 26 journalists in custody 12 months later, CPJ report stated. “The situation, however, is even direr than this total suggests. Many journalists, among them American Danny Fenster, were released ahead of the census count after months in prison and CPJ’s research suggests there may be others in custody yet to be identified as reporters.”
The report said that in addition, an unknown number of reporters have gone underground or into exile – their departure a significant blow to gains made by independent media under the ousted elected government.
Egypt came in behind Myanmar as the world’s third-worst jailer of journalists, with 25 in custody for 2021. Although a decrease from last year, the ongoing detentions are emblematic of the Abdel Fattah el-Sisi government’s often blatant disregard of its country’s own laws.
Belarus leader Aleksandr Lukashenko, meanwhile, showed how little he cared about public opinion and how much he cared about staying in power by the extreme measures taken to arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich: the outrageous diversion of a civilian RyanAir flight to take Pratasevich off the plane.
“Belarus now has at least 19 journalists behind bars, up from 10 last year and the highest since CPJ started keeping data on imprisoned journalists in 1992,” the report stated.
For the third consecutive year, China has earned the dubious distinction of being the “world’s worst jailer of journalists”, with a total of 50 journalists in prison as of the first of this month.
For the first time, the survey counted detained Hong Kong journalists in its tally for China due to the imposition of the 2020 National Security Law.
The US non-profit organisation noted that some countries, like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have exited their place in the top five of worst jailers, but warned that it would be “naïve” to assume that this is because they’ve had a change of heart.
According to the report, severe crackdowns and detentions in recent years have “silenced journalists” in both countries.
The report pointed out that authoritarian leaders are increasingly using tactics like internet shutdowns and increased surveillance to “block independent reporters and outlets”.