5 July 2011

Campaigns and Advocacy

IFJ calls for release of all journalists, writers and bloggers on Communist Party's 90th anniversary

(IFJ/IFEX) - June 30, 2011 - In a letter to Hu Jintao, IFJ urges the government, on the eve of the Communist party's 90-year anniversary, to release all imprisoned journalists, writers and bloggers and to ensure that the rights and protections these individuals are granted under the constitution are upheld.

Hu Jintao
General Secretary
Standing Committee of the Political Bureau
CPC Central Committee
President of China

Dear President Hu,

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) writes to you to respectfully urge the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party in China, on the eve of the party's 90-year anniversary on July 1, to demonstrate its commitment to free expression by releasing all imprisoned journalists, writers and bloggers and fully implement rights and protections to these individuals that are enshrined under the constitution of China.

In the past 30 years, China has dramatically changed its economy, infrastructure and defence systems and its relationship with the world. Many citizens of China have experienced the benefits of these changes but the past three decades have not seen people also enjoy their constitutional rights. Since 2008, the IFJ has recorded too many cases of journalists, writers, bloggers, activists and ordinary civilians who have been harassed and threatened with physical harm, including death, of punishment or imprisonment after exercising their right to free expression under Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.

"We need to create conditions for people to oversee and criticise the government to make the government live up to its responsibility and prevent corruption." These are the words of Premier Wen, from a speech to Britain's renowned Royal Society on June 27. This is not the first time such a promise has been made. Premier Wen made similar pledges in September 2008 at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin and in an address to the National People's Congress in Beijing in March 2010.

We appreciate that Premier Wen has made efforts in these areas. The IFJ recognises comments made this week by the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) which made it clear that "blacklisting" of journalists by Government departments would not be allowed.

Overall however, these promises have barely been honoured. People who have courageously spoken up to help the Government understand the realities and the hardships that people experience at the grassroots have routinely been targeted with severe punitive action by local, provincial and central authorities.

Thousands of journalists, writers and bloggers have been harassed for exercising their right to report the news, in some cases by Government agents. Some journalists have died or been brutally assaulted. Investigative journalist Sun Hongjie of the Northern Xinjiang Morning Post was killed after he was beaten on December 17, 2010 by unknown people in Kuitun, Xinjiang. Sun's death came immediately after he had published an investigative report about the corruption of the Kuitun township government. Local police speedily concluded that Sun's death was due to a personal dispute and detained six people. However, the IFJ considers that the conclusion of the investigation was unconvincing.

A female journalist, known as Lim, of China Central Television was seriously injured on June 9 by an unknown male outside of the broadcaster's office building in Chaoyang District, Beijing. Lim sustained knife wounds to her nose and face in the attack. Police announced on the day of the assault that they apprehended a suspect, yet results of the investigation are obscure.

Cases such as these highlight the fact that journalism is a dangerous profession in China. The IFJ believes conditions for media professionals will worsen if the Government persists in its apparent intention to ignore the dangerous conditions that journalists and media workers face in the course of their working lives.

The Communist Party has a monopoly on power in China, and as such it should bear a much greater burden to protect its citizens and their constitutional rights, particularly regarding freedom of expression. Such rights were enshrined in China's first constitution made in 1954 and have been maintained in later amendments.

Premier Wen also told Britain's Royal Society on June 27 that "the more the people participate in social management and public affairs, the greater the momentum there will be to sustain social progress." The IFJ believes that in order to constructively achieve such social progress, it is imperative to allow people to enjoy genuine freedom of expression, which in turn will allow the government to be more inclusive and make for a stronger, more harmonious society.

IFJ appeals to the Standing Committee of the Communist Party Central Committee to release all people who have been imprisoned for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression including Liu Xiaobo, Tan Zuoren, Ran Yunfei, Shi Tao, Qi Chonghuai, Liu Xianbin, Hailaite Niyazi and Dilshat Perhat.

We urge the Public Security Bureau of China to ensure that public security officers at all levels uphold and promote Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution and release all information about the attacks made on journalists since the 2008 Olympics, when the Chinese Government promised to support more media freedoms in mainland China.

The IFJ believes that on this 90-year anniversary, Communist Party of China officials must recognise that increased media freedoms will assist China to become a transparent, accountable, fair and respectful nation, goals that match the party's future vision for the country.


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