- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blogging can be a dangerous business.

More bloggers and online scribes have been jailed worldwide than any other breed of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which released its annual “prison census” survey Thursday.

Almost half — 45 percent — of all media workers jailed worldwide are bloggers, Web-based reporters or online editors, representing the largest professional category for the first time in CPJs prison census.

“Online journalism has changed the media landscape and the way we communicate with each other,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “But the power and influence of this new generation of online journalists has captured the attention of repressive governments around the world, and they have accelerated their counterattack.”

The carefree existence of bloggers may be a myth — at least in some parts of the world.

“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 Mr. Simon.

The CPJ survey found that overall, 125 journalists are behind bars in 29 countries as of Dec. 1 — and 56 percent of them are bloggers, or work online. There was only one blogger jailed a decade ago.

Print reporters, editors and photographers make up the next largest category, with 53 incarcerated this year. Television and radio journalists and documentary filmmakers constitute the rest.

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,” Mr. Simon said.

Six out of 10 of these journalists have been charged with “subversion, divulging state secrets, and acting against national interests,” the survey said — though 13 percent are being jailed with no formal charges. At least 16 journalists worldwide are being held in secret locations.

China, Cuba and Burma have jailed the most journalists, followed by Eritrea and Uzbekistan.

“The United States, which is holding photographer Ibrahim Jassam without charge in Iraq, has made CPJs list of countries jailing journalists for the fifth consecutive year,” the survey stated. “During this period, U.S. military authorities have jailed dozens of journalists in Iraq — some for days, others for months at a time — without charge or due process. No charges have ever been substantiated in these cases.”

Accounts of all the cases can be found at the New York-based group’s Web site www.cpj.org.