IFJ Condemns Chinese Censorship as New York Times Researcher Faces Death Penalty

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, has today condemned Chinese authorities for censorship and control of journalists and the information they report with and outside China's borders.

On 20 October 2004, Chinese authorities formally charged Zhao Yan with 'divulging state secrets', a crime punishable by death. Zhao Yan, a Chinese researcher for The New York Times is accused of leaking state secrets after he allegedly informed the newspaper of the President's resignation before it was officially announced.

Chinese authorities were angered by the New York Times report that accurately reported former President Jiang Zemin had tendered his resignation from a top military post during a secret high-level meeting of the Communist Party.

Despite the fact that The New York Times has denied Zhao Yan's involvement with the story, Chinese authorities have held the researcher since 16 September.

The IFJ is calling for the all charges to be dropped and Zhao Yan to be released immediately.

"We are concerned that an innocent man may be forced to pay the ultimate penalty - execution," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

"The IFJ condemns this punishment for any journalist, guilty or not, who has pursued the truth in a matter of public interest, "said Warren

"This is not the first case of a journalist being taken in for allegedly revealing state secrets," said Warren.

"It is unacceptable for Governments to constrain journalists under the guise of 'national interest' and 'patriotism'," said Warren.

At least 23 journalists and 50 cyber dissidents were jailed in 2003 for promoting democracy or for openly criticising the Communist Party abuses, making China one of the most repressive countries in the world for journalists to work in.

"The Chinese authorities systemically use a policy of censorship to crack down on all types of independent media in the country," said Warren.

Finally, the Chinese press has not reported the demonstrations and arrests of hundreds of people in Beijing trying to make themselves heard by members of the central committee attending the communist party plenum during September. Foreign journalists were also prevented from covering these events.

For further information, please contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries

To view release online click here: http://www.ifj-asia.org/page/china041025.html