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This week, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that freelance writers, editors and photojournalists currently make up 45 percent of all journalists jailed worldwide. The statistic is unnerving, but not all that surprising considering how few resources freelancers have to protect themselves.

Joel Simon of Slate.com points out that most of the prisoners are online journalists. This highlights the contradictory power of the internet: freelancers can showcase their work more easily, but it also provides a new realm for repressive governments to crackdown on press freedom. In countries like Burma, China, Cuba and Egypt (dubbed “internet enemies” by Reporters Without Borders), power-hungry and paranoid governments have found new ways to control information online.

So what to do? Journalists in media-unfriendly countries can apply pressure from the ground-up to hold tyrannical regimes accountable. But I propose this with trepidation since it could mean more jailed journalists (the number has already gone up since 2008). In countries with relative press freedom, reporters need to expose the unjust imprisonment of journalists, playing the watchdog role from afar. After all, there must be some power in what we report. Otherwise, governments in Iran, China, Cuba and Eritrea wouldn’t be tossing reporters in jail.

Check profiles of the jailed journalist here.

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About the author

Jenny Vaughan was the Editor for the Summer 2010 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

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