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CPJ Says Mideast Bad, Iran 'Worst' Journalist Jailer

Petitions in support of Iranian journalist Mohammad Davari are collected at the Committee to Protect Journalists' 20th Annual International Press Freedom Awards Dinner in New York in 2010. Davari is one of the 42 Iranian journalists cited in the CPJ repor
The Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) says the number of journalists jailed around the world has increased to its highest level since the mid-1990s and Iran is "the world's worst jailer."

The independent U.S.-based group, which promotes press freedom and the rights of journalists, says in a new report that 42 of the 179 news gatherers that the group counted behind bars are in Iran.

The group says Iran's situation worsened "as authorities kept up a campaign of anti-press intimidation that began after the country’s disputed presidential election more than two years ago."

CPJ says that in Iran "authorities have maintained a revolving cell door since" the June 2009 presidential election, with furloughed journalists forced to post huge bonds, politically pressured, and encouraged to "turn on their colleagues."

“The volume of arrests, interrogations, and people out on bail is enormous,” Omid Memarian, an exiled Iranian journalist, is quoted as saying. “The effect is that many journalists know they should not touch critical subjects. It really affects the way they cover the news because they are under constant fear and intimidation.”

Five international broadcasters -- Voice Of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Deutsche Welle of Germany, France's AEF, and Radio Netherlands Worldwide -- issued a joint statement on December 7 accusing Iran of increasing its intimidation of foreign media and accelerating efforts to disrupt satellite broadcasts in Farsi from reaching Iranian audiences. The statement was issued after a meeting of senior executives of the broadcasters in London.

Most Jailed This Century

The group's survey says Eritrea, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Turkey, and Syria also rank among the world's biggest jailers of journalists.

The survey found that at the beginning of this month, governments in the Middle East and North Africa were holding 77 journalists behind bars -- nearly 45 percent of the worldwide total.

The group said the global total of 179 news people imprisoned is the highest since 1996, when it counted 185 jailed journalists.

based on RFE/RL and agency reporting

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