Journalists in Jail: a Year-End Account
A Record 185 Cases of Reporters Imprisoned in the Line of Duty

Imprisoned List

At the end of every year, The Committee to Protect Journalists surveys the world’s prisons to document cases of journalists who have been jailed simply because of their profession. On Dec. 31, 1996, there were at least 185 reporters, editors, and broadcasters in prison in 24 countries;the largest number CPJ has yet recorded. Most of their names appeared on the December 1995 list as well, as most are serving long terms of five years or more.

Countries that routinely imprison journalists are a diverse lot, ranging from staunch U.S. allies to near-pariah states.

Turkey is once again the single most egregious example of a government that criminalizes independent reporting. We confirmed a startling 78 cases of journalists held in Turkish jails at the end of 1996;more than in the next five worst offenders combined. The majority of the imprisoned Turkish journalists were guilty only of reporting openly and often critically about issues of concern to the Kurdish minority and details of military campaigns against Kurdish rebels.

Ethiopia, with 18 prisoners, is for the third straight year the largest jailer of journalists in Africa;despite a reduction in the prison population from last year’s record of 31, prompted in part by CPJ’s close scrutiny of Ethiopia’s press freedom problems. China, despite some carefully timed releases, continues to hold 17 journalists, most of whom have been in custody for seven years or more. In Kuwait, 15 journalists;most of them ethnically Palestinian;are still serving sentences of 10 years to life for alleged collaboration (which they attribute to coercion) with Iraqi occupation forces before the Gulf War. Burma and Nigeria each hold eight journalists in prison, most for openly critical political commentary and analysis.

In almost every instance, the jailers concede that these imprisonments were intended as censorship;reprisals for what governments considered excessively critical or candid reporting. We are respectfully petitioning each of the 24 governments on this list for the immediate release of these journalists, on the grounds that their continued imprisonment constitutes an illegal infringement of their right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” as guaranteed to them by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Countries Holding Journalists in Prison

| Home | Attacks '96: Index |