The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is dismayed by the almost farcical trial of New York Times researcher Zhao Yan in Beijing on June 16, which lasted only one day, called no witnesses and maintained a closed courtroom.
“Despite calls from the IFJ and the international community for a fair and open trial for Zhao, the reality was anything but. How can the Chinese authorities expect the world to take them seriously if they cannot respect such a basic human right as a fair trial?” IFJ president Christopher Warren said.
“Although no verdict has been delivered, the fact the courts took only one day to hear the entirety of Zhao’s case, the court’s refusal to call any witnesses, and the secrecy of closing the trial to the outside word, is a further disheartening indication of the dire press freedom situation in China,” Warren said.
Zhao was detained in September 2004 in connection with a New York Times’ article, which reported on the reshuffle of top leadership positions in the Communist Party of China (CPC), before it was officially announced.
Zhao was not formally indicted until December 2005 on charges of “fraud” and “revealing state secrets”. The charges were dropped in March 2006, however he was not released, and he was re-indicted in May. The penalty for leaking state secrets is a minimum of 10 years jail.
He has been detained now for almost two years.
Zhao is one of more than 30 journalists imprisoned in China. Although the Chinese Government has been commonly known to imprison Chinese journalists, in the past the government has refrained from jailing foreign journalists or those employed by foreign news agencies.
“If the Chinese government truly wants to improve its human rights and press freedom record it must start to respect basic international standards of freedom and must immediately desist systematically using unfair laws to muzzle journalists and political activists in China,” Warren said.
The IFJ calls for the immediate withdrawal of all charges and the release of Zhao Yan.
For more information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in 110 countries worldwide