Governments that jail journalists should face pressure from the United States


Just this week, the Committee to Protect Journalists published its 2017 prison census, which documented the highest number of journalists behind bars since we began keeping records in 1990. At least 262 journalists were in prison on December 1, more than half of them held by just three countries: Turkey, China, and Egypt.


Instead of isolating these countries for their authoritarian behavior, the United States has cozied up to its leaders. President Donald Trump recently praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a friend after hosting him at the White House in May. During a visit to Beijing last month, Trump made no public reference to human rights in China, despite a crackdown on journalists and activists. And in April, Trump met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, after which Egypt passed an anti-terror law that furthered its crackdown on journalists.


As I said on CNN Today, these governments “should be facing pressure from the United States, from the European Union, and from global institutions.” But, I continued, “I don’t think they feel that kind of pressure. To the contrary, I think there’s a new framework in which governments that jail journalists are not forced to confront the consequences of their actions.”


The same day that CPJ published our prison census, U.S. Senator John McCain tweeted about it.

.@pressfreedom’s annual report shows record # of journalists imprisoned worldwide in 2017, including 21 on “fake news” charges. @POTUS must understand his harmful rhetoric only empowers repressive regimes to jail reporters & silence the truth.

“We have a president of the United States who talks a lot about fake news, and who makes a point of vilifying the media and criticizing the media,” I said on CNN. But “it’s so important that countries that value press freedom speak out about it, that they make it central to their foreign policy, that they apply pressure directly.” 


CPJ will not stop speaking out in defense of journalists, our brave colleagues who continue to do their job despite facing huge risks all over the world.


Thank you for supporting us!


Joel Simon

Executive Director



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