Iran named as world’s top jailer of journalists

Iran topples China as report shows Arab Spring spurs 50% surge in jailed writers

At least 79 journalists are currently held in Iran's jails

At least 79 journalists are currently held in Iran's jails

The number of journalists imprisoned in the Middle East and Africa has shot up by 50 percent this year as governments cracked down on media freedoms in the wake of Arab Spring uprisings.

Iran is the world’s leading jailor of writers, editors and photojournalists, toppling China for the first time, found the annual census survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

“While Iran’s 2009 post-election crackdown marked the beginning of widespread press imprisonments there, authorities have maintained a revolving cell door since that time,” the report from the New York agency said.

“The volume of arrests, interrogations, and people out on bail is enormous,” Omid Memarian, an exiled Iranian journalist was quoted as saying. “Journalists know they should not touch critical subjects. It really affects the way they cover news because they are under constant fear and intimidation.”

Journalists in Iran have been held under charges such as treason, subversion or acting against national interests. At least 79 are currently held on such charges in Iranian jails, CPJ said.

In total, 179 reporters were imprisoned worldwide this year, compared to 145 in 2010. Eritrea, China, Burma, Vietnam, Syria, and Turkey also ranked among the world's leading jailors of journalists, CPJ said.

Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder at consultancy firm Cornerstone Global Associates, said campaigns of anti-press intimidation would have a negative economic impact on the countries involved.

 “Most of those arrests appear to be essentially due to opinions held by the journalists,” he said. “In a world of open information, countries that feature high on the list undermine the confidence people have in any information they put out. This not only affects their political standing, but will inevitably impact on their credibility in other areas, including economic development. There is a clear correlation between FDI (foreign direct investment) and freedom of reporting.”

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