Reflecting the rising influence of online reporting and commentary, more Internet journalists are jailed worldwide today than journalists working in any other medium. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, released today, the Committee to Protect Journalists found that 45 percent of all media workers jailed worldwide are bloggers, Web-based reporters, or online editors. Online journalists represent the largest professional category for the first time in CPJ's prison census.
The CPJ, which has released its report 10 Worst Countries to be a Blogger in time for World Press Freedom Day, considers anyone engaged in reportage or fact-based commentary to be a journalist.
There is considerable overlap between this list and Reporters sans frontières' annual Press freedom Index. Nine of the countries listed by the CPJ appear in Rsf's twenty worst-rated countries for press freedom.
CPJ 2008 prison census: Burma
Nay Phone Latt, freelance
IMPRISONED: January 29, 2008
Nay Phone Latt, a businessman also known as Nay Myo Kyaw, wrote a blog and owned three Internet cafés in Rangoon. He went missing on the morning of January 29, according to exile news groups...
A court charged Nay Phone Latt in July with causing public offense and violating video and electronic laws when he posted caricatures of ruling generals on his blog, according to Reuters.
...During closed judicial proceedings held at the Insein compound on November 10, Nay Phone Latt was sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison, according to the Burma Media Association, a press freedom advocacy group, and news reports.
Al Jazeera: Middle East web writers 'harassed':
In Syria, blogger Tariq Baissi was sentenced to three years in prison for "weakening the national feeling and the national ethos". Biassi had posted a six word long comment in a web forum in which he criticised the Syrian security services. Numerous other cyber dissidents remain behind bars in Syria.
Many believe the proportion of bloggers as a fraction of journalists arrested is likely to rise:
Many internet activists believe the jailing of web writers will increase in the future, especially as more and more print journalists are said to be migrating to web-based work for various reasons, including censorship circumvention.
"It will increase, I'm sure, as more and more people are tasting the power of the internet and the usage of the web is spreading," said Sami Ben Gharbia, the Tunisia advocacy director of Global Voices, told Al Jazeera.
Yet part of this, at least, may be down to blogging providing a journalistic platform for dissidents and freedom campaigners that simply didn't exist before:
In Tunis, Nazira Rijba, a Tunisian writer and activist, was in late 2008 charged over an article she wrote in support of the Tunisian news website Kalima which has been subject to censorship by the Tunisian authorities.
She says she is regularly harassed over the Interphone at her house and on the street by the authorities for her work and activism.
"Do not think of us as victims," she said. "We are militants who are being harassed by the government. We are paying the price of freedom, but freedom is the door for change."
Committee to Protect Journalists:
"The image of the solitary blogger working at home in pajamas may be appealing, but when the knock comes on the door they are alone and vulnerable," said CPJ's Simon. "All of us must stand up for their rights--from Internet companies to journalists and press freedom groups. The future of journalism is online and we are now in a battle with the enemies of press freedom who are using imprisonment to define the limits of public discourse."