China,Iran push world''s tally of imprisoned scribes to 14-yr


New York, Feb 16 (Kyodo) China and Iran together put themost number of journalists behind bars last year,accountingfor nearly half of those imprisoned worldwide and pushing theglobal number to the highest level in 14 years, said anon-profit organisation here.

"In 2010 China''s brutal suppression of ethnic journalismand Iran''s sustained crackdown on critical voices have pushedthe number of journalists in prison worldwide to its highestlevel since 1996," said Joel Simon, executive director of theCommittee to Protect Journalists, at the release of its annualworldwide survey yesterday.

Simon said the group identified 145 reporters, editorsand photojournalists behind bars worldwide as of December 1,and that China and Iran tied for first place with 34imprisoned journalists each.

Eritrea came third with 17 journalists in jail, followedby Myanmar with 13 and Uzbekistan with six.

The 431-page survey "Attacks on the Press in 2010" saidthe number of imprisonments in China was "up significantly"from the previous year.

The increase was propelled by a series of imprisonmentsof Uyghur and Tibetan journalists that began in the latterhalf of 2009 and continued throughout 2010, "the details ofwhich have emerged only recently in accounts of their courtproceedings," the report said.

Tibetan and Uyghur journalists covered topics "officiallyoff-limits," including ethnic issues and violent regionalunrest, and were unrecognized by the state or Communist Party,which authorise all Chinese media, it said.

According to the report, the data from Iran were"surprising" in that they reflected not simply thepost-election crackdown in 2009 but showed that a "sustainedassault on critical voices...continued throughout 2010."

The detainees ranged from Issa Saharkhiz, aninternationally well-known veteran reporter, to Navid Mohebbi,a blogger covering women''s rights, who at the age of 18 becamethe youngest person tracked by the New York-based NPO.

Simon voiced criticism of UN Secretary General Ban KiMoon for not congratulating the 2010 Chinese Nobel Peace Prizewinner, Liu Xiaobo, a human rights activist who remainsimprisoned himself.

"We have consistently maintained and have communicated tothe secretary general that we believe the United Nations, inparticular, the secretary general as an individual shouldbecome an outspoken advocate of freedom of expression andfreedom of the press," he said. (Kyodo)

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