The Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded another dismal milestone in the onslaught of authoritarian leaders against a free press — a new high over the past year in the number of journalists jailed around the world.
In its annual report on reporters jailed for their work, the organization, which is a nongovernmental nonprofit, said 293 journalists were imprisoned around the world, an increase of 13 from 2020. At least 24 journalists have been killed so far this year, the committee reported; 18 others died in circumstances “too murky to determine whether they were specific targets.”
China remained the top jailer of journalists for the third year in a row, with 50 locked up. Myanmar moved up to second place because of a military coup in February and the media crackdown that followed. Egypt, Vietnam and Belarus were the next three.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is usually on the conservative side among organizations that monitor press freedoms in reporting on the abuse, arrest or killing of journalists, because of its stringent verification protocols. Even so, this is the sixth consecutive year that it has recorded at least 250 journalists jailed for their reporting, a trend it attributes to “a growing intolerance of independent reporting” by increasingly arrogant autocrats prepared to flout due process and international norms to stay in power.
For Americans, there has been an increasing infringement on press freedom in recent decades that once seemed anathema to the country’s ideals. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama each waged their battles with the press. President Donald Trump went much further, calling some news outlets the “enemy of the people.” President Biden’s administration has shown courage on certain fronts, such as standing down on efforts by federal prosecutors under Mr. Trump to secretly obtain phone and email records of journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists report, however, coincided with the ruling of a British court that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, can be extradited to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act.
It is most unfortunate that the U.S. government has chosen to continue to use a law as potent as the Espionage Act to pursue Mr. Assange. There is a debate about whether Mr. Assange is a journalist, but equating the publication of classified materials received from government sources with espionage strikes at the very foundations of a free press and should be rejected by Mr. Biden.
As usual, the NYT is never a dollar short but they are late in weighing in about Julian Assange.
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