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Eritrea is Africa’s top jailer as 67 journalists are imprisoned in 2023

(Last Updated On: 19 January 2024)

A new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has shown a shocking increase in the number of jailed journalists in Africa from 56 in 2022 to 67 in 2023. Eritrea led in 2023 while Egypt jailed more in the previous year.

As of December 31, CPJ found that Eritrea had jailed 16 journalists followed by Egypt, 13. Ethiopia was third with 8, Cameroon 6 and Senegal 5.

Rwanda came fifth with 4, Algeria and Morocco 3 each. Togo jailed 2, Angola, Burundi, DRC, Madagascar, Nigeria; Tunisia and Zambia jailed 1 apiece.

Eritrea was the top jailer of journalists across Africa. The majority of the 16 journalists imprisoned there have been detained since 2001, and are longest longest-detained journalists in the world, according to CPJ, adding, “Ethiopia has appeared on the census frequently and remains a difficult media environment. All eight journalists were arrested in 2023 after covering conflict in Amhara state.”

Cameroon has appeared on the census every year since 2014, with some of the 6 jailed journalists held since 2016, the Committee says.

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Three of the jailed journalists in Rwanda are YouTubers. After the enactment of a new digital code and press law in April 2023 in DRC to criminalize journalism, authorities have used these laws along with the penal code to prosecute Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala.

On the census date of December 1, 2023, globally, 320 journalists were behind bars. This number was the second highest since the census began in 1992, CPJ says.

Outside Africa, China, Myanmar and Belarus are “the worst jailers of journalists” according to the Committee. China jailed 44 in 2023 followed by Myanmar and Belarus jailing 43 and 28 respectively.

At least 130 journalists were freed from jails in 2022 following the assistance of CPJ.

At least 94 of the 320 journalists in the 2023 census – almost 30% – are known to have health problems. Many cannot get medications or access to doctors but their families are often reluctant to speak out for fear of reprisal against their relatives. CPJ’s research found numerous instances where jailed journalists were denied healthcare, medicine, and sometimes basic necessities like heat, hot water and electricity.

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