The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to writer and Charter 08 initiator Liu Xiaobo, currently jailed in north-eastern China.
However, the IFJ is concerned that authorities in China sought immediately to block any reporting by local and foreign media on the award, announced on October 8.
Liu, a renowned scholar, was sentenced to 11 years’ jail on December 25, 2009, accused of agitation to subvert the Government.
He had previously been jailed four times because of his articles about the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and his urging of China’s Government to move peacefully to democracy.
“China’s Constitution enshrines the freedom of expression defended by Liu in his work, as well as the right of media to report on his situation – including his detention and the awarding of the peace prize to him,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
“We urge China’s authorities to recognise their own Constitution and not obstruct reporting on matters of public interest, including Liu’s situation.
“In deference to China’s Constitution, we call for the immediate unconditional release of Liu and other journalists and writers unjustly jailed for exercising their constitutional right to express their views freely.”
The Nobel Committee’s decision to honour Liu irked authorities in China, who condemned the award and issued a verbal order that no media was to publish information about the award or create conditions for discussion about it.
Since October 8, China’s Security Bureau has prevented local and foreign media from interviewing Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, as well as other initiators of the pro-democracy Charter 08, including Zhang Zuhua and Jiang Qisheng, who remain under heavy surveillance.
Security personnel in Jinzhou city, Liaoning Province, where Liu is detained, restricted Hong Kong media seeking to report on a visit by Liu’s wife to see her husband at the weekend. They were ordered to leave the prison premises, and not to take photos in or near the prison.
After meeting Liu at the prison on October 10, Liu Xia was reportedly escorted back to Beijing and placed under house arrest, according to news reports.
One local journalist said after the ban was issued that “a few journalists were ‘invited’ to talk with plain-clothes personnel of the Security Bureau. I don’t know why but I believe the authorities are quite worried that some journalists are not loyal enough.”
The Nobel Committee also highlighted China’s Constitution, noting, “Article 35 of China’s constitution lays down that ‘Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.’ In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
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