Fri, Jan 20, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Media groups slam Beijing

AFP , BEIJING

International media rights groups condemned China yesterday over a recent string of actions aimed at curbing press freedoms, including the shutting down of 79 publications and the jailing of writers.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders called for the immediate release of three journalists jailed this week for writing about villagers' complaints over the alleged illegal government seizure of land for development.

Zhu Wanxiang (祝萬祥), editor of Zhonghua Xin Qingnian (New China Youth), and the chief editor, Wu Zhengyou (吳正有), were jailed on Tuesday for 10 and six years respectively by a district court in Lishui City, Zhejiang Province.

The third journalist, identified as Pan Chunlei or Wang Xianyong, was sentenced to one year in prison, the group said.

The defendants were charged with "illegal business operations" as the publication was not officially registered, a court official said on Wednesday.

They were also charged with "fraud and extortion" because of the magazine's fund-raising and investment activities, the official said.

The media watchdog further accused China's propaganda boss, Liu Yunshan (劉雲山), of violating press freedoms via his ongoing campaign "to sweep away pornography and crack down on [media-related] crime."

Liu announced on Tuesday that China last year shut down 79 "illegal" publishing houses and confiscated 169 million illegal publications as part of the campaign, and vowed to continue efforts this year.

"While Liu Yunshan praises his department for having closed down 79 publications last year, the jail terms imposed on these three journalists serve as a reminder that the fight against pornography and intellectual piracy is often just a pretext," the group said.

"The crackdowns also target journalists whose only crime is to try to break out of the strait-jacket of political control," it said.

In another protest, London-based International PEN protested the detention of Zheng Yichun (鄭貽春), an ethnic Korean intellectual who was jailed for seven years last month for subversion.

The press freedom group called for the immediate and unconditional release of the poet, professor and dissident writer.

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