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Two reporters and one photographer remain detained for denouncing official corruption

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

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

1 February 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 jailing of two journalists and one photographer, who were arrested in June 2007 after reporting on a case of corruption, and the failure of authorities to release them when the deadline to press charges expired.

According to reports, reporters Qi Chonghuai and He Yanjie, and freelance photographer Ma Shiping, were detained by police respectively in Jinan city and Tengzhou city in the eastern province of Shandong for exposing corruption in the Tengzhou Communist Party. Mr Ma was arrested on 16 June and Mr Qi and Mr He were detained on 25 June. Mr Qi was held incommunicado for more than two months and has reportedly been assaulted and threatened by security officials. Mr Qi, Mr He and Mr Ma published an article and photographs about local corruption on the Xinhuanet website.

The cases against Mr Qi, Mr He and Mr Ma were sent by police to the Tengzhou People's Procuratorate for examination on 2 November 2007. Under China's Criminal Procedure Law, the Procurator should have made a decision on whether to prosecute the men by 20 December. However, no decision has been made and Mr Qi, Mr He and Mr Ma remain in detention. Furthermore, as they are being held in apparent contradiction of Chinese law, we call on your to ensure their immediate release.

Mr Ma has reportedly been charged with suspicion of deception and blackmail, while Mr Qi and Mr He were charged only with blackmail. We are concerned that these charges have been fabricated and that the real reason for their arrests is their reporting activities.

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 and bloggers ahead of the Olympic 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 Qi, Mr He and Mr Ma and all others 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
President
World Association of Newspapers

George Brock
President
World Editors Forum

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State Council of the People's Republic of China
Beijing, People's Republic of China

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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, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups. WAN is non-governmental and non-profit.

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