CPJ: Trump Attacks Provide Cover for Record Journalist Imprisonments

For the second consecutive year, a record number of journalists--262--were imprisoned, and President Donald Trump's anti-journalist rhetoric provides cover for the trumped-up accusations and legal charges. That is according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The figure, as of Dec. 1, was up from 259 in the previous 12-month period.

Turkey (73), China (40) and Egypt (20) led the list of the world's jailers, together accounting for over half of the total, which only includes government custody, not those who have disappeared or were captured by non-state groups. It also does not include those imprisoned and released on a rolling basis throughout the year.

Not surprisingly, since most of the "crimes" were against the state, politics was the most dangerous beat, representing 87% of those jailed. Freelancers accounted for almost a third (29%).

"The international community has done little to isolate repressive countries and U.S. President Donald Trump's nationalistic rhetoric and insistence on labeling critical media 'fake news' serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists," CPJ said.

Related: CPJ Decries Designation VOA, RFE/RL Foreign Agents

It found that the number of journalist jailed for 'fake news' doubled in 2017 to 21 cases.

Joel Simon, executive director of CPJ, warned last May that the Trump Administration's treatment of the U.S. press was bad enough but that it had "far worse" implications as precedent for other countries.

"[T]hroughout the first 100 days of the presidency of Donald J. Trump—a man who loves to disparage, insult, and rail against the media—the trend has continued," blogged Simon on CPJ's website.

Simon at the time quoted Salvadoran reporter Óscar Martínez: "Trump inhabits the global showcase. In attacking the U.S. press, he attacks all of the press and puts it at risk."

Before Trump was elected President, CPJ took the unprecedented step of declaring the Republican candidate a threat to press freedom "unknown in modern history."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.