NEW YORK — China's crackdown on ethnic reporters and Iran's sustained suppression of critics has helped push the number of journalists jailed worldwide to 145 – the highest level in 14 years, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
The committee counted nine fewer journalists behind bars globally at the end of 2009.
The New York-based press advocacy group said in a report released Wednesday that with 34 imprisoned journalists each, China and Iran together account for nearly half of the reporters, editors and photojournalists imprisoned worldwide.
The committee said that 17 journalists are jailed in Eritrea, 13 in Myanmar, and six in Uzbekistan.
Of those imprisoned globally, at least 64 are freelance journalists, it added.
"The increase in the number of journalists jailed around the world is a shocking development," said committee Executive Director Joel Simon. "It is fueled largely by a small handful of countries that systematically jail journalists."
The imprisoned journalists are most commonly held on anti-government charges, or no charge at all, the committee said. It said China and Iran both rely heavily on vague anti-government charges.
Iran's imprisonment of journalists has extended far beyond last year's postelection crackdown, with at least four detained in the past two months, the committee said.
In China, it said, the increase is largely due to the jailing of Uighur and Tibetan journalists for covering the off-limits topics of ethnic issues and violent regional unrest.