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CPJ: CHINA: Court upholds 10-year sentence for journalist Shi Tao

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  • Kristin Jones
    NEWS Committee to Protect Journalists 330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465­1004 Fax: (212) 465­9568 Web: www.cpj.org
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2005
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      NEWS
      Committee to Protect Journalists
      330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465­1004 Fax: (212) 465­9568 Web: www.cpj.org E-Mail: media@...
      Contact: Kristin Jones or Abi Wright
      Telephone: (212) 465-1004
      e-mail: info@...
      =========================

      CHINA: Court upholds 10-year sentence for journalist Shi Tao

      New York, June 30, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores the Hunan Supreme People’s Court decision to uphold the conviction of journalist Shi Tao on charges of “illegally leaking state secrets abroad.” The ruling makes it more likely that Shi will serve out the bulk of a 10-year prison sentence for e-mailing to the editor of a news Web site his notes about propaganda officials’ instructions to his magazine.

      “We are outraged that the Chinese government considers information about its propaganda strategy to be a state secret,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on Chinese authorities to release Shi and end the practice of jailing journalists.”

      In a verdict dated June 2, the court rejected the appeal filed by Shi’s defense lawyer, Mo Shaoping, in early May, according to a court document obtained by the Chinese Rights Defenders, an advocacy group. The journalist was not given a hearing in the appeal, which was submitted in writing.

      Officials from the Changsha security bureau detained Shi near his home in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, on November 24, 2004. Authorities confiscated his computer and other documents and warned his family to stay quiet about the matter.

      On December 14, authorities issued a formal arrest order, charging Shi with "leaking state secrets." On April 27, 2005, the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court found Shi guilty and sentenced him to a 10-year prison term.

      Shi, 36, is a poet and journalist who served as editorial director of Dangdai Shang Bao, a magazine based in Changsha, Hunan province. On April 20, 2004, he e-mailed to a U.S.-based online editor, Cary Hung, his notes from the Propaganda Bureau’s instructions to the magazine regarding the return of overseas dissidents to China to mark the 15th anniversary last year of the military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square.

      Cary Hung is editor of the New York-based Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum), a dissident news Web site that is banned in China, and Minzhu Tongxun (Democracy Communication), an e-mail-based information network. Shi’s notes were distributed through Minzhu Tongxun and later posted on other Web sites.

      Shi had written articles for Minzhu Luntan and received payment for his work. Though Hung has clarified that he did not pay Shi for the notes from his editorial meeting, other payments that Shi received from Hung were used as evidence of selling state secrets.

      In refusing to overturn the earlier verdict, the court argued that the 10-year sentence handed to the journalist was a light one, considering the charge.

      Similar state secrets and espionage allegations have been used to imprison two other journalists in the last year, including New York Times researcher Zhao Yan and Hong Kong-based Straits Times reporter Ching Cheong.

      CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.



      Committee to Protect Journalists
      330 Seventh Avenue, 11th Floor
      New York, NY 10001
      phone: 1-212-465-1004
      fax: 1-212-465-9568
      http://www.cpj.org

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      NEWS

      Committee to Protect Journalists

      330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465­1004 Fax: (212) 465­9568 Web: www.cpj.org E-Mail: media@...

      Contact: Kristin Jones or Abi Wright
      Telephone: (212) 465-1004
      e-mail: info@...
      =========================
      Thousands of Chinese journalists appeal for release of colleagues

      New York, June 28, 2005—More than 2,000 journalists have signed an open letter to the Guangdong High People’s Court appealing for the release of imprisoned Nanfang Dushi Bao employees Yu Huafeng and Li Minying.

      The letter describes Yu and Li as innocent victims of an unjust prosecution. It was signed by 2,356 journalists who work at five prominent print publications—Nanfang Dushi Bao, Xin Jing Bao, Di Yi Caijing Ribao, Xinwen Wanbao, and Shanghai Qingnian Bao—and two major Internet news outlets—Sina.com and Sohu.com. Analysts have described the number of signatories as unprecedented.

      Yu and Li have been jailed since January 2004. Yu, the newspaper’s former deputy editor-in-chief, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges. Li, its former editor, was sentenced to 11 years for bribery in a related case. In an appellate trial held on June 7, 2004, Yu’s sentence was reduced to eight years, while Li’s sentence was reduced to six years.

      Yu and Li were imprisoned after the aggressive investigative reporting of Nanfang Dushi Bao embarrassed local officials. The newspaper broke news that a young graphic designer, Sun Zhigang, was beaten to death in government custody in March 2003. The daily also reported a suspected SARS case in December 2003 before the government made the information public.

      Chinese journalists familiar with the case have told the Committee to Protect Journalists that evidence presented in court did not support the corruption charges.

      “A few among us will speak on behalf of the whole group to continue to advocate until we see justice served in this case,” said the journalists’ letter, dated June 8, 2005. “We firmly believe it is just a matter of time until justice will prevail. And we believe that sooner is better than later.”

      The newspaper’s former editor-in-chief Cheng Yizhong was also jailed for five months last year; Chinese journalists, academics, lawyers and government officials had openly advocated for his release.

      The recent letter signed by journalists recalled that Cheng was named the 2005 recipient of a United Nations press freedom award. He was banned from attending the awards ceremony in Senegal in May.

      No independent journalists union exists in China, and authorities have taken steps to deter journalists from publicly advocating for greater freedom or for the defense of imprisoned colleagues. Journalists have been intimidated, harassed, and jailed after advocating on behalf of other writers and media workers.

      “We join with our colleagues in calling for the release of Yu Huafeng and Li Minying, who are unjustly imprisoned for the independent reporting of their newspaper,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.

      The government has reasserted control over China’s media, arresting journalists for local and foreign media organizations in response to their reporting or commentary. China was the world’s leading jailer of journalists in 2004 for the sixth consecutive year; 42 journalists were behind bars at year’s end.

      Newsweek this week reported that the Chinese Minister of Publicity Liu Yunshan recently issued a directive calling on local officials to rein in the press by cracking down on practices such as yidi baodao. Under this practice, journalists evade local propaganda officials by reporting on corruption and crime outside of their own province.

      CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.



      Committee to Protect Journalists
      330 Seventh Avenue, 11th Floor
      New York, NY 10001
      phone: 1-212-465-1004
      fax: 1-212-465-9568
      http://www.cpj.org
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