Iran ranks just below China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea, and Vietnam, at the top of the list of the countries that keep journalists behind bars, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) disclosed on Tuesday, December 10.
For the fourth consecutive year, at least 250 journalists are kept in jails across the world, CPJ says in its report, adding that authoritarian figures such as China's Xi Jinping, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Saudi Arabia's Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, and Egypt's General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have shown no sign of relaxing their tightened iron grip on the media.
Meanwhile, CPJ has singled out the case of an Iranian journalist, Mohammad Mossa'id (Mossaed), who was held in custody for a tweet he had published during the recent outage of the internet in Iran.
"Hello, Free World!" Mossa'id had twitted asserting that he had used 22 different proxies to relay his message.
Mossa'id was later freed on bail, pending trial.
"Iran's repressive treatment of journalists has led many to go into exile. Most independent journalists find the choices stifling: work for censored state-run outlets or risk being imprisoned for their work. After fleeing Iran, often having to cross borders illegally or slip away while on trips abroad—like Iranian state news agency journalist Amir Tohid Fazel, whose escape on a government trip to Sweden in August was reported by CNN—they are presented with new challenges including proving the threats against them when applying for asylum and being able to continue work as a journalist," CPJ says.
Turkey imprisoned 47 journalists in 2019, down from 68 last year. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both with 26; Eritrea with 16; Vietnam, with 12; and Iran with 11 were the next-most oppressive countries for journalists, the report said.
The report also noted that "authoritarianism, instability, and protests" this year had led to an increase in the number of journalists imprisoned in the Middle East.