The number of journalists jailed around the world reached a record high in 2012, with Turkey the worst offender, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report published Tuesday.
At the start of this month, 232 reporters, photographers and editors were in prisons in 27 countries on charges of "terrorism" and crimes against the state intended to "silence critical voices," the New-York based group said.
The figure is the highest since the organization, which promotes press freedom, began record-keeping in 1990 through an annual census. Until now, the record was 185, set in 1996.
Turkey holds 49 journalists behind bars, according to the group, the largest total for an individual country. Dozens of Kurdish reporters and editors have been jailed on terrorism-related charges, it said, and several other journalists "on charges of involvement in anti-government plots."
"Broadly worded anti-terror and penal code statutes have allowed Turkish authorities to conflate the coverage of banned groups and the investigation of sensitive topics with outright terrorism or other anti-state activity," the committee said.
Iran came a close second, with 45 jailed journalists, according to the report. Tehran has "sustained a crackdown that began after the disputed 2009 presidential election," it said.
Many of the 32 journalists behind bars in China, the third worst offender, are Tibetans or Uighurs who were imprisoned for covering ethnic unrest that flared up in 2008, according to the committee. Others are being held for expressing dissident political views, it said
In Eritrea, none of the 28 detained journalists have "ever been publicly charged with a crime or brought before a court for trial," the report said, dubbing the country "the worst abuser of due process."
Amid the civil war raging in Syria, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have seized at least 15 journalists, according to the committee.
"None of the detainees have been charged with a crime, and the authorities have been unwilling to account for the detainees' whereabouts or well-being," it said.
On a more positive note, the committee noted that for the first time since 1996, Myanmar is not on its list of countries jailing journalists.
The Myanmar government of President Thein Sein, whose recent political reforms have been welcomed by the United States and Europe, has released at least 12 journalists over the past year, the report said.