Zhao’s sentencing a “devastating blow for press freedom in China”, says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned today’s sentencing of New York Times researcher Zhao Yan to three years jail for fraud.

The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court reportedly dismissed the state secrets charge against Zhao, which held a penalty of up to 10 years jail, however found him guilty of the unrelated charge of fraud.

“Zhao Yan should never have been tried. This decision is further evidence of China’s steady retreat from press freedom,” IFJ president Christopher Warren said.

“While the IFJ applauds the rejection of the ludicrous state secrets charges, we are appalled the courts could jail a journalist on what is clearly a trumped up charge of fraud,” Warren said.

“No journalist should be jailed for simply doing their job. This is another devastating blow for press freedom in China, where more than 30 journalists are imprisoned and many more are subject to censorship, attacks and assaults for nothing more than fulfilling their duty to the public’s right to know,” the IFJ president said.

Meanwhile, there is still no verdict in the case of Ching Cheong, chief China correspondent for Singapore’s The Strait Times, who was tried on charges of “spying” behind closed doors on August 15.

“In another case where a journalist has been tried with no supporting solid evidence, the IFJ reiterates its demands for Ching to be released and for all charges against him to be dropped,” Warren said.

Zhao’s sentencing comes almost two years after he was first detained in connection with a New York Times’ article, which reported on a reshuffle in the upper levels of the Communist Party of China before it was officially announced.

The three-year jail term reportedly takes Zhao’s detention into account, which places his release at September 2007.

The IFJ, the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries, has been consistently campaigning for the release of Zhao and for all charges against him to be dropped.

According to IFJ affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) Zhao’s wife has already confirmed she will appeal the case.

The IFJ calls on the appeals court to fulfil their obligation to justice and find Zhao not guilty of all charges and order his immediate release.

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

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries worldwide