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IFJ condemns sentencing of Sichuan writer

(IFJ/IFEX) - 9 February 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns a decision by the Chengdu Intermediate Court in China today to sentence Sichuan-based writer Tan Zuoren to five years' jail for his articles about the Tiananmen Square massacre and accepting interviews with foreign media.

The IFJ is also appalled by the efforts of local police and court officials to obstruct journalists from reporting freely on today's hearing.

Tan, 55, was indicted on July 17 on charges of inciting subversion of state power by causing damage to the image of China's Government in articles he wrote about the 1989 Tiananmen Square democratic movement and massacre, which were uploaded onto the United States-based Torch of Liberty website on May 27, 2007.

Tan was also charged with accepting an interview in 2009 with Falun Gong's "Voice of Hope" newspaper around the time of the massacre anniversary on June 4.

Other charges included contacting Wang Dan, a leader of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, to arrange a global blood donation campaign to support victims of the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

The conviction includes a three-year suspension of Tan's political rights.

At today's hearing, nine Hong Kong journalists were detained and forced by police and security guards into a room inside the Chengdu court house. They were told that they were not permitted to report from outside the court and would be provided with a court representative to assist them to report the news.

Two journalists were injured as they were forced into the room. All nine were detained in the room and their press cards were confiscated until Tan's sentence was delivered.

"Efforts by China's authorities to block independent reporting on sensitive issues grossly undermine China's Constitution, which stipulates that all citizens have the right to freedom of expression and a fair trial," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

Tan's wife, Wang Qinghua, who was also denied entry to the court hearing, told Hong Kong media her husband would appeal the sentence. "The verdict and sentence are totally groundless and unfair," she said.

The IFJ demands the immediate release of Tan and urges the Central Government to ensure local authorities and court officials are made aware of the rights of journalists to report on matters of public interest.

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