According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 2016 has seen a record number of journalists jailed worldwide, marking the worst year on record with an unprecedented 259 behind bars. Egypt is listed as the third worst offender with 25 journalists in jail, preceded by China with 38 and Turkey with 81.
In its latest report, published on Tuesday, the New York-based group writes that, “More journalists are jailed around the world than at any time since the CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1990, with Turkey accounting for nearly a third of the global total.”
The five countries at the top of the list account for 68 percent of all journalists imprisoned worldwide since December 1, 2016. This includes Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
Turkey’s high ranking this year is a result of an “ongoing crackdown that accelerated after a failed coup attempt in July,” according to the report. The government has increasingly imprisoned journalists seen as sympathetic to exiled opposition cleric Fethullah Gülen or the attempted coup.
Eight of Egypt’s 25 jailed journalists have been locked up for more than three years, since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013. The remaining 17 have been imprisoned for periods ranging from several weeks to years. This is an increase from the 23 imprisoned in 2015, when Egypt was ranked the second worst jailer of journalists after China.
Some are linked to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated newspapers like Rassd, while several others are TV correspondents, freelance reporters and photojournalists. Most are being detained in Cairo’s Tora Prison, although some are being held in Alexandria, Port Said, Arish, Fayoum and Gamasa, among others.
One of the most high profile prisoners is freelance photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid — popularly known as Shawkan — who has spent over three years in jail. He was arrested by security forces for photographing the violent dispersal of the Rabea sit-in. Shawkan, who suffers from Hepatitis C, has claimed he has been denied access to necessary medical care, and has not yet been sentenced by a court.
Detained on July 3, 2013, Rassd photojournalist Mahmoud Abdel Nabi has spent the most time behind bars. He has remained in detention for over three years and five months, pending his sentencing.
The CPJ has reported that 12 journalists have been killed in Egypt since 1992, seven of them since July 3, 2013.
In November the committee criticized President Abdel Fattah al–Sisi for continuing to imprison journalists, impose travel bans on media workers and for the sentencing of three top members of the Journalists Syndicate.
In November, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) included both Sisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on its list of 35 global press predators.
It ranked Egypt as 159th out of 180 states on the 2016 World Press Freedom index.