IFJ Condemns Ongoing Imprisonment of Journalists in China and Calls for Legal Rights of Journalists to be Upheld

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists over 110 countries, is deeply concerned about the abuse of the legal system by the Chinese government to unjustly imprison journalists.

Imprisoned journalist Shi Tao's family has filed an appeal for the Hunan Province High People's Court to review Shi Tao's case after his own appeal was rejected without a hearing.

On April 27, Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by the Changsha Intermediate People's Court after finding him guilty of 'leaking state secrets abroad'. Shi Tao admitted to emailing notes that detailed government instructions to the media about coverage of the anniversary Tiananmen Square outside of China, but contested the secret nature of the information.

"Shi Tao has been illegally denied the chance to defend himself. This is a shocking violation not only of legal procedure, but also of civil liberties," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

Constituting another criminal procedure violation, Shi Tao's appeal hearing on June 2 was blocked to the public. And although Tao was arrested and detained in November 2004 for 'illegally leaking state secrets', a formal arrest order was not issued until December 14 of that year.

Shi's case follows the alarming cases of Zhao Yan and Ching Cheong, who were both correspondents for foreign news organisation detained for 'divulging state secrets' and investigating secret interviews. Zhao Yan has been imprisoned since September 16, 2004, and Ching Cheong has been detained since April 22, 2005.

Like Zhao and Ching, Shi Tao has been completely deprived of due process and a fair trial.

In this latest, desperate attempt, Shi Tao's mother, Gao Qinsheng, has filed a request for review with the Hunan Province High People's Court. Shi's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, filed a brief in support of the request.

"The cases against these three journalists are part of a unofficial, widespread and systematic policy to intimidate and persecute journalists who do not tow the party line," said Warren.

"It is clear that the Chinese government has embarked on a disturbing mission to suffocate any form of government criticism. Journalists should be ensure the inviolable right to question and discuss without the fear of intimidation, harassment and imprisonment," said the IFJ President.

The IFJ demands the immediate dropping of all charges and speedy release of Ching Cheong, Zhao Yan and Shi Tao.

For further information on the plight of Zhao and Ching, visit: http://www.ifj-asia.org/page/hongkong050602.html

and http://www.ifj-asia.org/page/china041025.html

For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 (0) 411 757 668

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries around the world