Ching Cheong Must Be Freed, Says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is outraged by the sentencing of journalist Ching Cheong to five years in jail for spying in China, and has called for his immediate release.

Ching, chief China correspondent for Singapore’s The Strait Times newspaper, was detained in April 2005, but was not formally tried until August 15, behind closed doors, on charges of spying.

“Ching Cheong must be freed,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

“Everything about the Ching Cheong case, from his detention and treatment, to the trumped up spying charges and one-day trial behind closed doors, is an affront to fairness and justice,” Warren said.

“The IFJ had absolutely no confidence in the judicial process applied and five years in jail is an outrageous sentence for a case that should never have even made it to trial,” he said.

The IFJ, the organisation representing over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries, and its affiliates including the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), along with all the major press freedom groups, have consistently campaigned for the release of Ching and for all charges against him to be dropped.

This latest abuse of freedom of expression in China comes less than a week after New York Times researcher Zhao Yan was sentenced to three years jail for fraud.

“This is a very sad day for press freedom in China. With Zhao Yan’s jailing last week, and today’s sentencing of Ching Cheong, it begs the question that when will the Chinese government realise that jailing journalists in an attempt to curb free speech is unacceptable, outdated and totally retrograde,” Warren said.

“While five years jail is thankfully substantially less than the maximum penalty of death, the courts should have gone in the other direction and dismissed all charges against Ching,” Warren said.

IFJ affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association is holding a press conference today at 4pm local time with the Ching Cheong Incident Concern Group.

“We will continue to campaign for press freedom in China and to secure the release of Ching, and the rest of the countless journalists languishing in jail in China for doing nothing more than their jobs,” the IFJ President said.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 411 757 668

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries