IFJ urges UN to defend detained journalist’s legal rights

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the fact that detained journalist Gao Yu has been deprived of her legal right to meet her defence lawyer for three months.

Gao Yu, an outspoken independent journalist, went missing on April 24. It was announced on May 8 that she had been detained by the Chinese authorities on accusations of releasing “state secrets” to Hong Kong and German media outlets. According to state-owned Xinhua News Agency, Gao, 70, released information to non-Mainland media outlets in August 2013. Xinhua did not specify the information involved, but it is widely believed to be document “Number 9”, which sets out the seven topics which the Central Government has forbidden people to talk about.

China Central Television broadcast Gao’s “confession”, but her face was covered, making it impossible to know anything of her condition.

Apple Daily, a Chinese-language newspaper in Hong Kong, reported on June 24 that it is suspected Gao is being tortured, but this could not be confirmed. Gao’s defence lawyer has been denied access to her three times since she was detained.

According to Chinese law, all accused persons have a right to see a defence lawyer in order to understand their legal rights and the relevant laws.

The IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said: “The law states that the rights need to be approved by the head of the investigative team in special cases such as those involving the country’s security. However, Gao has been interrogated and detained by the authority for three months since she first went missing.

“It is clearly unacceptable for Gao to be deprived of her legal rights. If the rumours are true that she has been tortured in the detention center, this is clearly against the United Nations Convention Against Torture.”

We urge the Chinese authorities to respect Gao’s right to meet her lawyer.

We also urge the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) to demand an explanation of her case from the Chinese delegate and urge the Chinese authorities to investigate the case and release the report promptly.

In 1999, Gao became the first journalist to receive the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. In 2000, she was named one of the International Press Institute’s 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the twentieth century.