By J. DAVID GOODMAN
A new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists found that the number of journalists and employees imprisoned for doing their jobs around the world rose sharply in 2011, with the largest jump seen in the Middle East, where popular uprisings have toppled governments and dominated the news.
The report, a snapshot of those behind bars worldwide on Dec. 1 and published on Thursday, found that more than 179 people were imprisoned in connection with their work as reporters, editors and photographers in 2011. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group, said it was the highest number of detentions recorded since they began keeping track in 1990. At the same point in 2010, the group found 145 journalists in jail.
Iran held the largest number, according to the group, with 42 people in jail because of their work as the country continued its crackdown on independent reporting that began during widespread protests over the disputed results of the 2009 presidential election. The authorities “have maintained a revolving cell door since that time, freeing some detainees on furloughs even as they make new arrests,” the report found.
Elsewhere, more than two dozen were held in China and a similar number in the east African nation of Eritrea, according to the report, which found that “not a single Eritrean detainee has ever been publicly charged with a crime.” In Syria, where a violent crackdown on dissent has made independent reporting increasingly difficult, the government has denied holding journalists.
Of those behind bars, nearly half were involved in producing work that appeared primarily online, a finding consistent with the group’s findings in recent years as digital reporting tools have spread to even the most remote corners of the world.
The report comes amid reports of the arrest of an outspoken blogger, Razan Ghazzawi, who had been covering the uprisings in Syria and the continued detention of a high-profile Egyptian activist and blogger, Alaa Abd El Fattah, who has written critically of the military government that took over after the country’s revolution.
The report, which includes a country-by-country map and profiles of those in prison as of last week, was compiled by the group from independent research, journalists in the field and fact-finding missions. The report defines journalists as “people who cover news or comment on public affairs,” said Gypsy Guillen Kaiser, a spokeswoman for the group, and it does not include those were imprisoned this year and released before Dec. 1.
For example, the list includes only two journalists behind bars in Egypt, Mr. Fattah and Maikel Nabil Sanad, an activist and blogger held since March for criticizing the actions of the military. Earlier this year, dozens of journalistswere attacked or detained during the final days of the revolution that toppled the government of Hosni Mubarak.
The Committee to Protect Journalists also said it had confirmed the deaths of two Bahraini reporters while in government custody in April: Karim Fakhrawi, who founded the independent Al-Wasat newspaper, and Zakariya Rashid Hassan al-Ashiri, the editor of a news Web site.
However, for the first time since 1990, the group did not record any detained journalists in North or South America, though it noted that in some countries, including Cuba, journalists have been jailed and then released shortly after as a form of intimidation and harassment.