15 DECEMBER 2011


The number of journalists in prison worldwide has spiked to its highest level in 15 years. Of them, nearly half worked online, raising larger questions about Internet freedom for more than just reporters, but average citizens as well.

Eighty-six out of 179 journalists who were in prison worldwide as of Dec. 1, 2011 were reporters or bloggers whose work appeared online, according to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists released this week.

The imprisonment of journalists is a main indicator for the perils of freedom of expression and human rights, as reporters often face the brunt of repression for those looking to control dissent within and across borders.

The report's revelation of the rising trend of imprisoned journalists appears as the 63rd anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights culminates in International Human Rights Day Dec. 10.

Article 19 of the U.N. Declaration grants the freedom to produce and consume information, "through any media and regardless of frontiers," but this year, the Internet has taken center stage for the battle for opportunity, equality and access along political, social, and economic lines.

In the CPJ's Dec. 1 report of journalists in jail, the number of journalists had distinct regional differences. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa were the worst offenders with nearly 45 percent of the world's jailed journalists, and Iran lead the list with 42 journalists in prison.

Another disturbing trend in the report revealed that although the majority of journalists were being held on "anti-state" charges or censorship violations, nearly half were held without due process.

Many online journalists don't have the protection of other journalists nor the protection of press laws. They are more vulnerable as easy targets.