The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls for the release of a netizen, from China’s western Xinjiang province, who was detained by authorities for allegedly ‘spreading rumours’ about the death of a young boy on June 5, 2012.
According to a Global Times report, on June 5, the unnamed netizen was detained for 15 days after forwarding information about a 12-year-old boy found dead in Korla, a city in China’s western Xinjiang province. A spokesperson for the Xinjiang Provincial Government said that after the information was posted online, subsequent comments on the post attacked the Communist Party and the Chinese Government. The spokesperson claimed that the post had caused ‘social disturbance’, however they did not elaborate on the nature of that disturbance. However, the spokesperson did confirm that a boy referred to in the post had died after receiving a beating from his classmates at the local underground school.
On May 30, Xinjiang Government officials announced that anyone found to be ‘fabricating and disseminating false information’ would be punished.
“This is not an isolated case of a netizen being punished for forwarding non-sensitive information,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said.
“According to China’s Disclosure of Information Law, all levels of government have a duty to disseminate information when there is public misunderstanding or rumours about an issue of public interest. However, China’s government officials continue to prefer to punish those disseminating information to the public, rather than exercising their own duties of transparency and good governance.”
According to Principle 6 of the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, personal expression may be punished as a threat to national security only if a government can demonstrate that the expression is intended to incite imminent violence, it is likely to incite such violence and there is a direct and immediate connection between the expression and the likelihood or occurrence of such violence.
The IFJ urges the Central Government of China to amend its relevant laws to incorporate the Johannesburg Principles.
The IFJ also demands the release of the detained netizen in Xinjiang, and the assurance that similar cases will not occur in the future.