Two Global Press Freedom Reports and Bitter Choices for Journalists Two international reports came out this week, not surprisingly reminding us of the high cost journalists are paying up for the practice of the profession. The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) say that 220 journalists have been jailed worldwide in 2014. Top government jailers this year included China and Iran, but the list also included Egypt as one of the top 10 government jailing journalists. CPJ says number of prisoners rose in number of prisoners rose in Eritrea, Ethiopia, China, Bangladesh, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Saudi Arabia. The Paris-based, Reporters Without Borders Annual Freedom of the Press Roundup said that at least 178 journalists are in prison currently and cited China, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Syria as world’s five leading jailers of journalists. Numbers presented by two reports do not necessarily produce an analytical conflict.
They both point to a phenomenon that is less based on counting “units”- journalists in prison because of their work is a one unit in itself. Most significant, for purposes of analysis, is to examine the question of Why (why journalists are still being imprisoned because of their work). Albeit that there is an even more tragic findings presented by these reports, namely continued killing and kidnapping of journalists in conflict zones and during armed conflicts- the examining of jailing journalists at times of no war and no armed conflict, remains a challenge. On one hand, journalists imprisonment means that a legal and legislative barrier still exists within the governing systems which still allows imprisonment of journalists in connection to what they produce as journalistic work. Those countries with such laws as press and publication, media law, online regulation law and the like, present the easiest case in terms of mapping restrictive elements in the legislative environments- because those tools are visible and can be- at least theoretically,. The most problematic cases are those countries who actually do not have these restrictive legislative elements in their law framework, but still imprison journalists. In my view, and although it is clear that such practice stems from arbitrary sources, governments engaged in these practices have rather instituted those practices as “norms” enshrined in the functions and operations of security and law enforcement agencies. But, and on the other hand, there is a correlation issue rather than a merely causal connection between how far the practice can grow in relation to the available political space in the society. Lack of guarantees for freedom of expression association in the society produces a negative impact on writing and reporting space for journalists, and thusly their outlets. With increased restrictions, prohibits, red-lines, taboos and “you cant talk about this” there are probably two choices: journalists define integrity lines and write what they think they should write about ending up in challenging the status-quo (in prison) or not and end up impacted by wither direct censorship by the editorial line or self censorship. In all cases, journalists should not be left alone to confront those bitter choices.