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Report: Turkey has more jailed journalists than any other nation for third consecutive year

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Revelation comes as Turkish leaders decry Jamal Khashoggi murder

ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Turkish government was named the world's biggest jailer of journalists for the third consecutive year, according to a new report. The revelation comes even as Turkish leaders have called for an international inquiry into the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

How many are jailed?

There are 251 journalists in jails around the world as of Dec. 1, according to the Annual Prison Census published by global press freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists. The list includes 68 journalists in Turkey, 47 in China, and 25 in Egypt.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has harshly criticized Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his alleged role in Khashoggi's killing. But a failed coup against Erdoğan's government in 2016 has led him to crackdown on critics.

"Turkey has really cracked down on the independent press by equating journalism with terrorism," Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told ABC News. "And we see this as part of a pattern that's been in place for many years."

Steven Cook, senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the news outlet that leaders in nations without formal protections from the media often follow the lead of the U.S.

"We used to think that when journalists were under attack, at least you would have the largest pulpit of them all, the U.S. president. But it's the opposite," Cook said. "The press has been labeled the enemy of the people and that's been heard around the world by people who think likewise."

What about fake news?

According to the CPJ, the number of journalists accused of perpetuating “fake news" has increased since President Donald Trump was elected. Around the world, nine journalists faced that charge in 2016. That figure increased to 21 in 2017 and 28 in 2018.

"We see countries are using the same terminology and pointing to the United States and pointing to Trump's labeling of journalists as fake news," Radsch told the news outlet. "It basically serves to inoculate those in power [because] it creates distrust."

Elsewhere, Ethiopia, which was traditionally one of the worst jailers of journalists in the world, did not have any journalists in prison as of Dec. 1, Quartz news reported. The newly elected leader of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front Party has put a number of political and economic reforms into place to reverse the trend. The last time Ethiopia had no journalists in prison was 2004.

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