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Anti-State Charges Account for 93% of Journalist Arrests Since 2011

A database documents the growing risks to the profession of journalism from multiple sources.
A database documents the growing risks to the profession of journalism from multiple sources.

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The raid and subsequent arrest of NewsClick founder and editor Prabir Purkayatha and human resources in-charge Amit Chakraborty has renewed the debate on press freedom in India. India’s slipping position in the press freedom Index also puts a question mark on press freedom in India. India is placed at the 161st spot among 180 countries on the Press Freedom Index, slipping from 150th in 2022 and 142nd in 2021.

According to the database prepared by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), India witnessed a record surge in the imprisonment of journalists in the last decade. From a total of 35 journalists sent behind bars since 1992, the CPJ database records that 29 were arrested after 2011. Seven journalists were arrested in each of the years 2021 and 2022, marking a record high since 1992. From 1992 to 2010, a total of four journalists were arrested.

The majority of journalists were arrested under anti-state charges. In 2022, seven journalists were arrested, all of whom faced charges related to anti-state activities. In 2021, out of seven journalists arrested, six were slapped with anti-state charges. A total of 31 journalists have been arrested since 2011, with 29 charged for anti-state activities.


However, it was in the decade preceding the 2000s that the highest number—seven journalists in a year—were killed. That was in 1997. As per the CPJ, these deaths were related to the work of the journalists. The CPJ categorised these deaths as ‘Motive Confirmed’. In the 2000s, 2021 and 2018 witnessed the highest number of journalist deaths, with five fatalities each. A total of 58 journalists have been killed in India since 1992. If one included the killing of media workers, that is, the staff that support journalists in their work, the toll would reach 61. 


In 2022, there was only one recorded journalist death. As per the records maintained by CPJ and accessed by this writer on October 9, 2023, a print media journalist named Sashikant Warishe was killed in February this year—the only killing in 2023 so far. 

India is the ninth-worst country in terms of journalist killings and falls to the eighth position when the murder of media workers is considered.

Globally, since 1992, a significant number of journalists have been jailed or lost their lives. The highest number worldwide, of 76 journalists killed, was in 2009. Although the numbers started to decline after that, in 2022, 41 journalists lost their lives globally, the highest count since 2018, when 58 journalists died in connection with their work.  


Around the world, 2022 saw the highest number of journalists— 363 in all—put behind bars since 1992. This was a 20% increase from the previous year, 2021, when 302 journalists were detained.

Top Offenders of 2022

According to the CPJ’s “Attack on Press 2022” report, 41 journalists were killed in 2022 in direct connection to their work. The committee is still investigating whether 26 other killings were work-related. Around the world, 67 journalists and media workers were killed, of which Ukraine, Mexico, and Haiti accounted for more than half, with 15, 13, and seven deaths, respectively.  


While India was ranked eleventh in terms of jailing journalists, Iran, China, Myanmar, Turkey, and Belarus were among the top five countries that jailed journalists in 2022.

“The rise was driven by a high number of journalist deaths covering the Ukraine war and a sharp rise in killings in Latin America,” CPJ maintains in its report.

In 2023, so far, ten journalists have been killed worldwide, with Ukraine reporting the highest number of fatalities at two, followed by India with one journalist death.

To be sure, it is important to note that journalist fatalities may vary depending on the organisation reporting it. The CPJ, a non-profit entity, uses its own standardised parameters for its count. It is also worth acknowledging that different organisations may employ varying assessment methodologies.

The author is an independent journalist. The views are personal. 

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