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RSF calls for immediate release of journalists, netizens jailed for referring to 1989 Tiananmen massacre

(RSF/IFEX) - 3 June 2010 - On the eve of the 21st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of the journalists and netizens who have been jailed for referring to this dark page in China's history. It also calls for an end to the censorship of both traditional and online media that want to tackle this subject and challenge the official version.

Shi Tao of the daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News) is one of the journalists who are being held. He was convicted of "illegally divulging state secrets abroad" on 30 April 2005 and was sentenced 10 years in prison. The details of the verdict showed that Yahoo!'s Hong Kong subsidiary provided the Chinese police with information that helped get him convicted.

According to the authorities, Shi's crime was to have forwarded a government directive about the 15th Tiananmen Square anniversary to a friend based abroad. The note, which was sent to the newspaper, warned journalists of the dangers of social destabilisation and the risks that could result from the return of certain dissidents.

Chinese state security officials insisted during the trial that the directive was "Jue Mi" (top secret). Shi admitted to passing it on to someone else by email but disputed that it was a secret document. The conditions in which he is being held are very harsh.

Sun Fuquan, a journalist from Shenyang (in the province of Liaoning), is serving a sentence of 21 months of forced labour for posting information about the events of 1989 online. He was convicted of "inciting subversion of state authority" and "dividing the country."

Zhang Huaiyang, a cyber-dissident from the same city, was sentenced to 18 months of forced labour in 2009 for asking on the Internet whether activists intended to gather in Tiananmen Square to mark the anniversary of the massacre. The authorities said he was guilty of "inciting unrest and endangering national security."

In a report released in June 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, Reporters Without Borders detailed the methods used by the authorities to maintain a veil of silence over the massacre. The policy has not changed. It is still impossible for the Chinese press and Internet users to refer freely to this subject. Between 400 and 500 keywords linked to the events of 4 June 1989 are censored online.

A cartoon apparently alluding to 4 June 1989 was published on 1 June in the newspaper "Nanfang Dushi Bao" (Southern Metropolitan Daily) and was posted on its website. But it was soon withdrawn from the site, along with the comments it had prompted. It showed a child drawing tanks and a figure resembling a soldier on a blackboard. The censoring of the cartoon shows that the authorities tolerate absolutely no reference to 4 June 1989, no matter how indirect.

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