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WAN calls for release of magazine journalist jailed in 1996

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a WAN letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao:

Premier Wen Jiabao
State Council of the People's Republic of China Beijing, People's Republic of China

14 January 2008

Dear Premier Wen,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to express our serious concern at the continued detention of journalist Fan Yingshang ahead of the twelfth anniversary of his sentencing.

According to reports, on 31 January 1996 the Chang'an District Court in Shijiazhuang City sentenced Mr. Fan to 13 years in prison, with three years' subsequent deprivation of political rights, for publishing and distributing illegal "reactionary" publications. The charges related to the publication of more than 60,000 copies of the magazine Remen Huati (Popular Topics) by Mr. Fan and his colleague Yang Jianguo in 1994. The men had allegedly bought fake printing authorisations. Mr. Fan was indicted on charges of profiteering on 16 October 1995, and his appeal was rejected six months later. Mr. Yang escaped arrest.

We respectfully remind you that the Organising Committee for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games issued the "Beijing Olympic Action Plan" in 2002, which laid out guiding principles and a series of promises as part of Beijing's preparation to be the host city. Specifically the Plan promised: "In the preparation for the Games, we will be open in every aspect to the rest of the country and the whole world. We will draw on the successful experience of others and follow the international standards and criteria."

In accordance with this pledge and numerous international conventions, declarations and agreements - including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - we call upon the Chinese authorities to free all jailed journalists ahead of the Olympics Games. According to reports, at least 30 journalists and 50 cyber-dissidents are currently held in Chinese prisons.

We respectfully call on you to take all necessary steps to ensure that Mr Fan and all other journalists detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression are immediately released from prison and that charges against them are dropped.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly
World Association of Newspapers

George Brock
World Editors Forum

WAN is the global organization for the newspaper industry, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 newspapers in 102 countries, 11 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups. WAN is non-governmental and non-profit.

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