The number of freelance journalists jailed around the world has almost doubled in the past three years and reflects a changing global news business, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
A report by the New York-based press freedom group found that as of December 1 there were 136 reporters, editors, and photojournalists behind bars, an increase of 11 from 2008. Almost half of those jailed are freelance media members.
It said the number of freelance media jailed had grown as the Internet allowed more journalists to work independently and some news organizations started relying on freelancers rather than staff for international coverage to cut costs.
"The days when journalists went off on dangerous assignments knowing they had the full institutional weight of their media organizations behind them are receding into history," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.
"Today, journalists on the front lines are increasingly working independently. The rise of online journalism has opened the door to a new generation of reporters, but it also means they are vulnerable," he said in a statement.
China was found to have jailed the most journalists for the 11th year in a row, holding 24 members of the media, followed by Iran, Cuba, Eritrea, and Burma, the report found.
Most of the 23 journalists jailed in Iran were detained during a crackdown on protesters and media after the June reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, CJP said.
Cuba is holding 22 journalists, 20 of whom were jailed when former leader Fidel Castro targeted independent press in 2003. Eritrea has imprisoned 19 journalists and Burma is holding nine.
Another 21 countries have jailed journalists, the report found, including the United States, which has detained for more than a year a freelance Iraqi journalist who worked for Reuters.
The number of online journalists in jail continued to rise to 68 this year. Print reporters, editors, and photographers account for 51 and television, radio, and documentary filmmakers make up the rest.
The full report can be seen here.