The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticizes the media ban during the trial of prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqang, been held today in Beijing. The IFJ calls on the authorities to allow media access to the court room.
Pu Zhiqiang, 50, is charged with ‘incitement to racial hatred’ and ‘picking quarrels and stirring up trouble’, following his detainment in 6 May 2014. According to his defence lawyer, Mo Shaoping, the prosecution charged Pu based on seven online posted messages out of his more than 20,000 posted messages on Sina Weibo between 2012 and 2014. Prosecution only based the allegations on seven of Pu’s messages, and only four were alleged to have been inciting racial hatred.
The “incitement to racial hatred” charge was related to a knife attack at Kunming railway station in March 2014 in which 29 people were killed and more than 140 injured. The other message relates to Pu criticism of Shen Jilan, an elderly delegate of National People’s Congress. In the message, Pu said she has never voted “no” in her time as a delegate.
Police forced Pu’s supporters and journalists to leave the court and only state-woned media was allowed access to the court room. Philip Wen, an Australian journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald was pushed by someone believed to be an agent from the security bureau, as he was trying to report. In addition to the restrictions on the media, foreign diplomats were also barred from releasing statements about the case.
A Hong Kong journalist told IFJ that police called them to the police station yesterday with the reason of “assisting them to investigate a case”. The journalist believes they were called to the police station so that they couldn’t attend court. Noting that a similar tactic was used during Gao Yu’s case.
Pu’s lawyer has already applied to the court to call all witnesses who are related to seven posted messages to testify at the court in order to prove what sort of injury or consequences they had suffered after Pu posted his messages in weibo.
Pu was detained on May 6, 2014 after he attended an event marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. Pu was a student who participated in the movment over two decades ago.
The IFJ Asia-Pacific office said: “The actions of the police and authorities, both in prosecuting Pu Zhiqiang and the treatment of journalists covering the case are a blatant attack on freedom of expression and press freedom in China. Chinese authorities continue to tighten the grip on freedom of expression across the country which will ultimately have detrimental impacts on press freedom."
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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