Israel has emerged for the first time as one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists, with 17 Palestinian reporters behind bars as of December 1, 2023, according to the latest report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The report, released on Thursday, said this is the highest number of Palestinian journalists in detention since CPJ began documenting arrests in 1992 and the first time that Israel has ranked in sixth place on the census.
The ranking comes as more than 80 journalists have been killed since the Israel-Gaza war began on October 7, 2023, making it one of the deadliest conflicts for the media in recent history.
According to CPJ, Israel’s unprecedented ranking was driven by its practice of administrative detention in the occupied West Bank, a type of incarceration that allows a military commander to detain someone without charge and extend their detention an unlimited number of times on grounds of preventing them from committing a future offence.
“Administrative detention has peaked amid the ongoing conflict, with thousands of Palestinians in detention, including journalists, activists, and politicians,” the report noted.
The report disclosed 320 journalists imprisoned in connection with their work in 2023.
The report said the top three jailers of journalists ; China, Myanmar, and Belarus held more than a third of those incarcerated on the day of the census. Russia and Vietnam rounded out the top five jailers of journalists.
The majority of the journalists listed in the census face anti-state charges, such as false news and terrorism, in retaliation for their coverage of human rights abuses, corruption, and political dissent.
“Our research shows how entrenched authoritarianism is globally, with governments emboldened to stamp out critical reporting and prevent public accountability. Meanwhile, Israel’s standing in CPJ’s 2023 prison census is evidence that a fundamental democratic norm – press freedom – is fraying as Israel exploits draconian methods to silence Palestinian journalists. This practice must stop,” said Jodie Ginsberg, CPJ’s chief executive officer.
“Across the world, we have reached a critical moment. We need to see an end to the weaponization of laws that silence reporting and ensure journalists are free to report. During a banner election year, with billions headed to the polls across the world, anything less is a disservice to democracy and harms us all,” she added.