The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the Government
of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to immediately release Iham Tohti,
founder of Uyghur Online Web, and refrain from detaining journalists reporting
on the conflict between the Uyghur and Han ethnic minorities in China’s north-west.
Tohti reportedly told friends he had received a “formal
notice” from the Xinjiang authorities at midnight on July 7 referring to articles
posted that day on Uyghur Online Web criticising the Chairman of the Xinjiang
Uyghur Autonomous Regional People’s Government.
The IFJ understands Tohti was subsequently arrested but is
unable to verify the date or location of the arrest.
Uyghur Online Web was reportedly shut down without
explanation from authorities immediately after uploading information about
riots on July 5 between Uyghur and Han groups and police in Urumqi, the capital of the autonomous region.
According to a report in the July 7 edition of the Hong
Kong-based Ming Pao newspaper, a
reporter who had called Tohti for comment about the riot said Tohti refused to
talk because official personnel were in his home.
Since the riots erupted on July 5, all communication channels
including internet, telephone landlines and mobile phone access in the region
have been disconnected or interrupted.
The Xinjiang Government organised limited internet access
for media to use at their press centre after media personnel who had been sent
by the Central Government to Xinjiang on July 6 complained about the
A journalist told the IFJ that China’s
Central Propaganda Department issued two orders to all media outlets in China
after the riots began. The orders said that all media outlets in China could
only use information published by State-owned news agency Xinhua, otherwise
they would receive a serious penalty.
A news report on the government-owned CCTV station on July
11 said 184 people had died during the riots and about 200 people were
“The IFJ is deeply worried by efforts of the Xinjiang
authorities to restrain media coverage and silence independent reporters trying
to disseminate information about this conflict,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said. “Accurate information about the
extent of fatalities and injuries must be made available to the public,
particularly for those who have family and friends in the region. Journalists such
as Tohti should not face detention for fulfilling their duty to provide this
The IFJ urges the authorities to release Tohti immediately
and allow a free press and free flow of all information out of Xinjiang Uyghur
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
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