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China has jailed most journalists globally for second year over coronavirus reporting: CPJ

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a global press freedom watchdog, has said that China, which has arrested several journalists for covering the coronavirus pandemic, is the world’s worst jailer for the second year consecutively. The CPJ says China has jailed 47 journalists, many of who are serving long sentences or are in the Xinjiang region without any charges levelled against them.

<strong><a href="https://cpj.org/reports/2020/12/record-number-journalists-jailed-imprisoned/">In a press release, CPJ says</a></strong>: "At least 274 journalists were jailed as of December 1, the most since CPJ began collecting data in the early 1990s, and the fifth consecutive year with at least 250 journalists imprisoned. China, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia were the worst jailers."

The media rights organisation said that a record number of journalists were imprisoned as "governments clamped down on news coverage of civil unrest and the coronavirus pandemic." CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said: “This wave of repression is a form of censorship that is disrupting the flow of information and fueling the infodemic. With COVID 19 raging through the world’s prison, it’s also putting the lives of journalists at risk.”

The CPJ highlighted that many of the journalists were arrested simply because they had covered the coronavirus spread from Wuhan, in Hubei province, which did not match the official narrative dished out by Beijing. The journalists included Zhang Zhan, who was posting local news and information on the coronavirus on social media platforms.

The CPJ took note of almost a dozen American journalists who were asked to leave the country over diplomatic rows, and also two Australian journalists who were arrested.

In March this year, <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51938035"><strong>China had asked reporters of three American newspapers</strong></a> – New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal – to leave the country within ten days. The communist country also wanted the US media outlets to disclose their financial and operational details. China defended its move saying it was in retaliation to the restrictions placed on Chinese journalists in the US.

The CPJ has also been critical of the US administration under President Donald Trump. The watchdog says: "President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric throughout his term, including calling critical reports “fake news,” gave cover to authoritarians to crack down on journalists in their own countries. Globally, 34 journalists were jailed for “false news,” compared with 31 last year. The organisation has appealed to incoming president Joe Biden to ensure that the number of jailed journalists across the world comes down..