May 1, 2015 – The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today joined its Asia-Pacific affiliates in calling for the immediate release of imprisoned veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Sunday. Media unions and associations representing the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), the South East Asia Journalists Unions (SEAJU) as well as journalist organisations in the Pacific and East Asia wrote to the Chinese authorities highlighting the inconsistencies in Gao Yu’s arrest and her recent trial and sentencing and have urged China’s President to use his power to release the journalist.
The imprisonment of the 71-year-old independent journalist for revealing a state secret has drawn global criticism to her case as well as the plight of at least 43 other journalists currently in jail. CPJ recently declared China the world’s biggest jailer of journalists.
Gao Yu was arrested in Beijing on April 24, 2014, on charges of illegally obtaining state secrets and sharing them with foreign media. It understood that a leaked document outlined the Communist Party’s plans to aggressively curb civil society and press freedom in China. Gao was subsequently charged and held in detention until her trial in November, 2014. The closed-door trial lasted four hours, during which the prosecution relied on a recorded confession by Gao which she testified was only obtained when police threatened the arrest her son. During the trial, Gao pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charge. Her sentencing was delayed on two occasions, however, this month on April 17 the verdict came down to a seven-year sentence for the alleged crime. Gao Yu is suffering from ill health and has twice previously been imprisoned for her journalism, in 1989 and 1993. .
Today, the IFJ Asia Pacific network issued letters to the Chinese President, Xi Jinping; the Premier of China, Li Keqiang; the President of the Supreme People’s Court of China, Zhou Qiang; and the Procurator-General of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Cao Jianming, calling for Gao Yu’s immediate release and to end the case against her.
The letter said: “The IFJ and its affiliates impress upon you that any journalist who face China’s judicial system should be guaranteed a free and fair trial, which cannot be said for Gao Yu. In addition to Gao’s coerced confession, the definition of state secret and the document which Gao shared brings a degree of uncertainty to the case. It is apparent that the document for which she was charged was already quasi-public having been shared in a number of provinces prior to Gao’s involvement. Even if the Communist Party’s Document No 9 were a secret document, it could not be a state secret, but rather a secret of the Communist Party.”
China was the biggest jailer of journalists globally in 2014 and has huge numbers of foreign journalists working within its borders. The case against Gao Yu highlights the constant challenges and threats journalists in China face and is one among many needing attention.