China Frees New York Times Journalist

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the release of New York Times journalist Zhao Yan after serving a three year term for fraud in Beijing.

Yan was detained in 2004 on allegations that he had leaked state secrets after the Times published a story correctly predicting the resignation of former president Jiang Zemin, who gave up his post as chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Yan has always vigorously denied being the source of the story.

While Yan’s release has long been promised by the Chinese government, IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said China had a long way to go before journalists were granted basic freedom of speech.

‘‘We congratulate Mr Yan on his release but believe he should never have been arrested in the first place,’’ Park said.

“We now urge the Chinese government to allow Yan his right to continue his work as an award-winning journalist.”

With at least 35 journalists and as many as 51 cyber dissidents currently imprisoned for pursuing their rights to freedom of speech, this is a serious issue for ensuring the rights of both Chinese journalists and foreign journalists working in China.

‘‘We fear international journalists will be put under enormous pressure by Chinese authorities with the Olympic Games set to start in less than a year, and call upon the international community to take a stand against any attempt to restrict their professional practice,’’ Park said.

This speculation comes just days after two Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporters and a BBC World Service reporter were arrested in Shengyou while researching a story on the murder of six villagers which occurred in 2005.

According to news reports, the reporters were detained for five hours and repeatedly harassed for information about their sources in the village of Shengyou, in which fifty villagers were injured by thugs over a land dispute.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries