The detention of three Vice News journalists in Turkey last month came with all-too-familiar charges of terror-related crimes. Similar allegations were leveled against three Al-Jazeera reporters convicted last year in Egypt of fabricating news to help the banned Muslim Brotherhood. So, too, against Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian journalist found guilty of terrorism charges in 2012 after publishing a critical piece about the government.

“We’re seeing this more and more, this abuse of national security as an excuse to rein in bad news, basically,” said David Kaye, the U.N.’s special investigator on freedom of speech.

Kaye warned that the growing use of anti-terror legislation against journalists is making any kind of critical reporting impossible in some countries.

“On the one hand national security is a legitimate basis for restricting freedom of expression,” said Kaye, a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine. “But the state has to demonstrate that it’s necessary to do so to achieve a legitimate objective, and they often abuse those rules for what I would say are illegitimate purposes.”

Kaye also cited Azerbaijan and Iran as examples where national security legislation has been widely used against journalists.

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