Journalists in Prison in 2002
139 journalists in prison as of December 31,
There were 139 journalists in prison around the world at the end of
2002 who were jailed for practicing their profession. The number is
up significantly from the previous year, when 118 journalists were
in jail. An analysis of the reasons behind this increase is contained
in the introduction.
At the beginning of 2003, CPJ sent letters of inquiry to the heads
of state of every country on the list below requesting information
about each jailed journalist. Readers are encouraged to add their
voices to CPJ’s by writing directly to the heads of state, whose names
and addresses can be found at www.cpj.org.
This list represents a snapshot of all the journalists who were incarcerated
when the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2002. It does not include
the many journalists who were imprisoned and released throughout the
year; accounts of those cases can be found in the regional sections
of this book.
A word about how this list is compiled: In totalitarian societies
where independent journalism is forbidden, CPJ often defends persecuted
writers whose governments view them as political dissidents rather
than as journalists. This category would embrace the samizdat publishers
of the former Soviet Union and the wall-poster essayists of the pre-Tiananmen
period in China. We also include political analysts, human rights
activists, and others who were prosecuted because of their written
or broadcast work.
We consider any journalist who is deprived of his or her liberty by
a government to be imprisoned. Journalists remain on this list until
we receive positive confirmation that they have been released. In
some cases, we have received reports that a journalist was killed
in government custody. One example is Nepalese journalist Krishna
Sen, who was arrested by government forces in Nepal on May 20, 2002,
and has not been heard from since. We keep Sen on this list as a way
of holding the Nepalese government accountable for his fate.
Journalists who either disappear or are abducted by nonstate entities,
including criminal gangs, rebels, or militant groups, are not included
on the imprisoned list. Their cases are classified as “missing.” CPJ
documented four such cases in 2002. Details are available on CPJ’s
Djamel Eddine Fahassi, Alger Chaîne III
Imprisoned: May 6, 1995
Fahassi, a reporter for the state-run radio station Alger Chaîne
III and a contributor to several Algerian newspapers, including the
now banned weekly of the Islamic Salvation Front, Al-Forqane,
was abducted near his home in the al-Harrache suburb of the capital,
Algiers, by four well-dressed men carrying walkie-talkies. According
to eyewitnesses who later spoke with his wife, the men called out
Fahassi’s name and then pushed him into a waiting car. He has
not been seen since, and Algerian authorities have denied any knowledge
of his arrest.
Prior to Fahassi’s “disappearance,” Algerian authorities
had targeted him on at least two occasions because his writing criticized
the government. In late 1991, he was arrested after an article in
Al-Forqane criticized a raid conducted by security forces
on an Algiers neighborhood. On January 1, 1992, the Blida Military
Court convicted him of disseminating false information, attacking
a state institution, and disseminating information that could harm
He received a one-year suspended sentence and was released after five
months. On February 17, 1992, he was arrested a second time for allegedly
attacking state institutions and spreading false information. He was
transferred to the Ain Salah Detention Center in southern Algeria,
where hundreds of Islamic suspects were detained in the months following
the cancellation of the January 1992 elections.
In late January 2002, Algerian ambassador to the United States Idriss
Jazairy responded to a CPJ query, saying a government investigation
did not find those responsible for Fahassi’s abduction. The
ambassador added that there was no evidence of state involvement.
Aziz Bouabdallah, Al-Alam al-Siyassi
Imprisoned: April 12, 1997
Bouabdallah, a reporter for the daily Al-Alam al-Siyassi,
was abducted by three armed men from his home in the capital, Algiers.
According to Bouabdallah’s family, the men stormed into their
home and, after identifying the journalist, grabbed him, put his hands
behind his back, and pushed him out the door and into a waiting car.
An article published in the daily El-Watan a few days after
his abduction reported that Bouabdallah was in police custody and
was expected to be released soon.
In July 1997, CPJ received credible information that Bouabdallah
was being held at the Châteauneuf detention facility in Algiers,
where he had reportedly
been tortured. But Bouabdallah’s whereabouts are currently
unknown, and authorities have denied any knowledge
of his abduction.
In late January 2002, Algerian ambassador to the United States Idriss
Jazairy responded to a CPJ query, saying a government investigation
did not find those responsible. The ambassador added that there
was no evidence of state involvement.
Saleem Samad, Reporters Sans Frontières
Imprisoned: November 29, 2002
Police arrested Samad, a well-known free-lance journalist and press
freedom activist, for his work with a documentary crew that was
preparing a report about Bangladesh for the “Unreported World”
series on Britain’s Channel 4. Samad, who is the Bangladesh
representative for the Paris-based press freedom
group Reporters Sans Frontières, had worked for the documentary
On November 25, police had arrested Zaiba Malik, the reporter for
the documentary; Bruno Sorrentino, the film’s director and
cameraman; and Priscilla Raj, a free-lance Bangladeshi journalist
who also worked for the documentary team as an interpreter. Samad
had gone into hiding after his colleagues’ arrests but was
found and detained on November 29. All four journalists were accused
Police arrested the journalists for their alleged involvement in
“clandestine activities as journalists with an apparent and
malicious intent of portraying Bangladesh as an Islamic fanatical
country,” said a statement issued by the Bangladeshi government,
as reported by the Agence France-Presse news agency.
On December 11, authorities released Malik and Sorrentino and deported
them to Britain. The two foreign journalists signed a statement
saying they would not produce any reports from their footage gathered
in Bangladesh and “expressing regret for the unfortunate situation
arising since their arrival in Bangladesh.” However, the Bangladeshi
journalists remained in jail. Raj was not released until December
On December 4, while being transported back to prison after attending
a court hearing, Samad shouted to journalists out of the window
of his van, “I have been subjected to inhuman torture,”
according to Bangladeshi press reports.
On December 23, the High Court ordered Samad’s release on
bail within 24 hours. However, the next day, government authorities
ordered that Samad remain in custody for 30 more days under the
Special Powers Act, which allows for the preventive detention of
anyone suspected of anti-state activities. On January 14, 2003,
the High Court ruled that the government’s order to extend
Samad’s detention was illegal and that he should be released.
Samad was finally freed from Kashimpur Jail, which is just outside
of Dhaka, on January 18.
Shahriar Kabir, free-lance
Imprisoned: December 8, 2002
Kabir, a free-lance journalist and human rights activist, was detained
in the capital, Dhaka, as part of a police sweep during which about
40 opposition figures were arrested. Authorities initially said
that Kabir was being held in connection with a sedition case against
journalists working on a documentary about the political situation
in Bangladesh for Britain’s Channel 4. The government had
accused the Channel 4 team of having the “malicious intent
of portraying Bangladesh as an Islamic fanatical country.”
Kabir was among those interviewed for the film.
During a December 12, 2002, court hearing, Kabir told investigators
that he had been tortured in police custody and denied food for
more than 24 hours, according to Bangladeshi press reports. He was
transferred to three different jails and was last imprisoned in
the southern city of Chittagong, about 160 miles (260 kilometers)
from Dhaka, a move that made it difficult for his relatives and
lawyers to visit.
On January 4, 2003, the High Court declared Kabir’s detention
illegal and ordered his release within 24 hours. On January 5, the
government ignored the ruling and ordered Kabir to remain in detention
for 90 more days under the Special Powers Act, which allows for
the preventive detention of anyone suspected of anti-state activities.
He was finally freed on the afternoon of January 7.
This was the second time in a year that Kabir was imprisoned. An
outspoken critic of the government, Kabir was arrested in November
2001 and accused by the Home Ministry of being “involved in
a heinous bid to tarnish the image of Bangladesh and its government.”
The charge stemmed from his reporting on the ruling party’s
responsibility for a wave of attacks against Bangladesh’s
Hindu minority that followed the October 2001 parliamentary elections.
He was first detained under the provisions of the Special Powers
Act and was later charged with treason. He was freed on January
20, 2002, following two separate High Court orders for his release.
Muntasir Mamun, free-lance
Imprisoned: December 8, 2002
Mamun, a writer and historian, was among several prominent government
critics and opposition members arrested in a series of police raids
on December 8 and 9 in the capital, Dhaka. He was
held under the provisions of Bangladesh’s Special Powers Act
allows for the preventive detention of anyone suspected of anti-state
activities, on suspicion of trying to destabilize
Mamun, the author of several books about Bangladesh, is a professor
of history at Dhaka University. He also regularly contributes columns
to several Bengali-language newspapers and had recently written articles about alleged
committed by the army during the government’s recent anti-crime
drive, Operation Clean Heart.
On December 12, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court
in Dhaka rejected Mamun’s bail petition and ordered him to
be held for 30 days in preventive detention, under the SPA, while
his case was being investigated. Mamun was imprisoned at the remote
Dinajpur Jail, located about 250 miles (400 kilometers) from Dhaka
in northern Bangladesh, making it both difficult and expensive for
lawyers and family members to visit him.
On January 5, 2003, the High Court declared Mamun’s detention
illegal and ordered the government to release him within 24 hours.
The court ruled that the government had failed to demonstrate sufficient
grounds for Mamun’s detention. However, Dinajpur Jail officials
claimed that they did not receive the court order promptly and only
released Mamun on January 9.
Enamul Hoque Chowdhury, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha
Imprisoned: December 13, 2002
Police arrested Chowdhury, a senior reporter for the government-controlled
news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) and a stringer for
Reuters news agency, for allegedly fabricating comments, attributed
to the home minister, that al-Qaeda may have been responsible for
a series of bombings on December 7, 2002, that killed at least
17 people in the northern town of Mymensingh. Reuters’ coverage
of the attacks quoted the statements.
Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury (no relation to the journalist)
denied making the statements. Reuters later withdrew five stories
regarding the explosions that ran on December 7 and 8, saying it
could “no longer vouch for the accuracy of the remarks,”
and that it was conducting an internal investigation into its coverage
of the attacks. BSS dismissed Enamul Hoque Chowdhury on December
A police statement issued after the journalist’s arrest said
that his reporting had “tarnished the country’s image
internationally and threatened its relations with powerful and friendly
countries.” Police later filed a case against the journalist
for complicity in the Mymensingh bomb attacks, which the government
claims were part of a conspiracy by the political opposition to
destroy the administration’s reputation. He is being held
under Bangladesh’s Special Powers Act, which allows for preventive
detention of anyone suspected of anti-state activities.
“We permit a free press,” Communications Minister Nazmul
Huda told London’s Financial Times. “But we will
not allow reporters to besmirch our reputation internationally by
making unsubstantiated allegations about Islamic extremism or the
presence of an al-Qaeda cell.”
Chowdhury admitted to colleagues that he mistakenly attributed comments
about al-Qaeda’s possible role in the blasts to the home minister.
However, the journalist has denied any criminal wrongdoing. Legal
challenges to his detention were ongoing in January 2003. The High
Court ordered a medical board to examine Chowdhury for evidence
that he was tortured while in police custody. As this book went
to press, Chowdhury was imprisoned at Dhaka Central Jail.
Mikola Markevich, Pahonya
Paval Mazheika, Pahonya
Imprisoned: September 1, 2002
Markevich and Mazheika, both of the independent weekly newspaper Pahonya,
were convicted on June 24, 2002, by the Leninsky District Court in
the city of Hrodna, in western Belarus, of libeling President Aleksandr
Lukashenko. The journalists were sentenced to two-and-a-half and two
years, respectively, of corrective labor. The case stemmed from two
September 2001 editions of Pahonya that criticized the president
ahead of the widely disputed September 9, 2001, presidential elections.
The sentences were later reduced to 18 months for Markevich and
12 months for Mazheika. They began serving their corrective labor
terms on September 1, 2002. The two men live in detention centers
under police supervision and perform compulsory labor. They were
the first journalists convicted under a criminal libel law passed
in 1999, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison
for libeling the president.
During a 10-day research mission to Belarus in the fall of 2002, CPJ
visited both journalists and brought them supplies and also lobbied
the government for their releases. In August 2002, Markevich reported
that the Hrodna City Executive Council had denied a petition to register
his new publication, Holos. Previously, Markevich had submitted
four other prospective newspapers for the council’s approval,
all of which were denied.
Viktar Ivashkevich, Rabochy
Imprisoned: December 16, 2002
Ivashkevich, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Rabochy,
was convicted by a court in the capital, Minsk, of libeling President
Aleksandr Lukashenko and sentenced to two years’ hard labor.
Under Belarus’ Criminal Code, libeling the president is punishable
by up to five years in prison.
The case stemmed from an article in a special August 2001 issue of
the newspaper titled “A Thief Belongs in Prison,” which
accused Lukashenko’s administration of corruption. Rabochy’s
special issue never reached its readers because prosecutors seized
40,000 copies of it and submitted them as evidence in the case.
A Minsk District Prosecutor’s Office charged Ivashkevich with
criminal libel almost a year later, on June 20, 2002.
The journalist’s trial began on September 11, 2002, and he
was convicted five days later, on September 16. Ivashkevich appealed
the verdict, but on October 15, the Criminal Cases Collegium of
the Minsk City Court upheld his sentence. In early December, prosecutors
rejected a request by the journalist to serve his corrective labor
in Minsk. On December 16, he left the capital for Baranovichy, a
city 85 miles (136 kilometers) southwest of Minsk, where he is serving
During a 10-day research mission to Belarus in the fall of 2002,
CPJ met with Ivashkevich to discuss his case, his publication’s
dire financial situation, and press freedom conditions in Belarus.
U Win Tin, free-lance
Imprisoned: July 4, 1989
U Win Tin, former editor-in-chief of the daily Hanthawati
and vice chairman of Burma’s Writers Association, was arrested
and sentenced to three years of hard labor on the false charge of
arranging a “forced abortion” for a member of the opposition
National League for Democracy (NLD). One of Burma’s most well-known
and influential journalists, U Win Tin helped establish independent
publications during the 1988 student democracy movement. He was also
a senior leader of the NLD and a close adviser to opposition leader
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
In 1992, he was sentenced to an additional 10 years for “writing
and publishing pamphlets to incite treason against the State”
and “giving seditious talks,” according to a May 2000
report by the Defense Ministry’s Office of Strategic Studies.
On March 28, 1996, prison authorities extended U Win Tin’s
sentence by another seven years after they convicted him, along
with at least 22 others, of producing clandestine publications—including
a report describing the horrific conditions at Rangoon’s Insein
Prison to Yozo Yokota, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights
U Win Tin was charged under Section 5(e) of the Emergency Provisions
Act for having “secretly published anti-government propaganda
to create riots in jail,” according to the Defense Ministry
report. His cumulative sentence is, therefore, 20 years of hard
labor and imprisonment.
Now 72 years old, the veteran journalist is said to be in extremely
poor health after years of maltreatment in Burma’s prisons—including
a period when he was kept in solitary confinement in one of Insein
Prison’s notorious “dog cells,” formerly used
as kennels for the facility’s guard dogs. He suffers from
spondylitis, a degenerative spine disease, as well as a prostate gland disorder
and hemorrhoids. The journalist has had at least two heart attacks,
and in 2002, he spent several months at Rangoon General Hospital
following a hernia operation.
In July 2002, reports emerged that
U Win Tin’s health had deteriorated even further, and many
international groups, including CPJ, called for his immediate and
unconditional release. In November 2002, authorities again transferred
U Win Tin to Rangoon General Hospital, this time for medical treatment
in connection with a heart ailment.
Ohn Kyaing, free-lance
Thein Tan, free-lance
Imprisoned: September 6, 1990
On September 7, 1990, Col. Than Tun, Burma’s deputy chief
of military intelligence, announced at a press conference that Ohn
Kyaing and Thein Tan were among six leaders of the opposition National
League for Democracy (NLD) arrested on the previous day, according
to international news reports.
On October 19, 1990, the Information Committee of the junta (then
known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council and later renamed
the State Peace and Development Council) announced at a press conference
that Ohn Kyaing and Thein Tan “had been sentenced to seven
years imprisonment by a military tribunal for inciting unrest by
writing false reports about the unrest, which occurred in Mandalay
on 8 August 1990,” according to the BBC’s translation
of a state radio broadcast.
The Mandalay “unrest” the committee referred to involved
the killing of four pro-democracy demonstrators by the military.
Government troops fired on protestors—who were commemorating
the democracy rallies of August 8, 1988, during which hundreds were
shot dead—killing two monks and two students.
Ohn Kyaing, who also uses the name Aung Wint, is the former editor
of the newspaper Botahtaung and one of Burma’s most
prominent journalists. He retired from Botahtaung in December
1988 to become more involved in the pro-democracy movement, according
to the PEN American Center. In 1990, Ohn Kyaing was elected to Parliament
for the NLD, representing a district in Mandalay. (The results of
the elections, which the NLD won, were never honored by the military
junta.) A leading intellectual, he continued to write. Thein Tan,
whose name is sometimes written as Thein Dan, is also a free-lance
writer and political activist associated with the NLD.
PEN reported that in mid-1991, Ohn Kyaing received an additional
sentence of 10 years in prison under the 1950 Emergency Provisions
Act for his involvement in drafting a pamphlet for the NLD titled
“The Three Paths to Power.” Thein Tan also received
an additional 10-year sentence, according to Amnesty International,
presumably for the same reason.
In a list of Burmese political prisoners published in April 2001,
Amnesty International reported that the sentences of both men were
reduced to 10 years on January 1, 1993. However, Ohn Kyaing and
Thein Tan remained in prison at the end of 2002. Ohn Kyaing was
jailed at Taungoo Prison, and Thein Tan was jailed at Thayet Prison,
according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political
Prisoners in Burma.
Maung Maung Lay Ngwe, Pe-Tin-Than
Imprisoned: September 1990
Maung Maung Lay Ngwe was arrested and charged with writing and distributing
publications that “make people lose respect for the government.”
The publications were titled, collectively, Pe-Tin-Than (Echoes).
CPJ believes he may have been released but has not been able to confirm
his legal status or find records of his sentencing.
Sein Hla Oo, free-lance
Imprisoned: August 5, 1994
Sein Hla Oo, a free-lance journalist and former editor of the newspaper
Botahtaung, was arrested along with dissident writer San
San Nwe on charges of contacting anti-government groups and spreading
information damaging to the state. On October 6, 1994, Sein Hla Oo
was sentenced to seven years in prison. San San Nwe and three other
dissidents, including a former UNICEF worker, received sentences ranging
from seven to 15 years in prison on similar charges.
Officials said the five had “fabricated and sent anti-government
reports” to diplomats in foreign embassies, foreign radio
stations, and foreign journalists. Sein Hla Oo, elected in 1990
to Parliament representing the National League for Democracy (NLD),
had been imprisoned previously for his political activities.
Though San San Nwe was granted an early release in July 2001 along
with 10 other political prisoners associated with the NLD, Sein
Hla Oo remained in jail. He was held at Myitkyina Prison, according
to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
Though Sein Hla Oo’s sentence should have expired in August
2001, he is now being forced to serve the remainder of an earlier
10-year prison sentence, issued by a military court in Insein Prison
in March 1991, according to his wife, Shwe Zin. Authorities had
arrested Sein Hla Oo in August 1990 along with several other NLD
members but released him under an amnesty order in April 1992. Shwe
Zin told the Oslo-based opposition radio station Democratic Voice
of Burma in an interview that her husband had signed a document
in October 2001 agreeing to abide by Article 401 of the Criminal
Procedure Code, which allows prisoners’ sentences to be suspended
if they pledge not to engage in activities that threaten public
Aung Htun, free-lance
Tha Ban, free-lance
Imprisoned: February 1998
Aung Htun, a writer and activist with the All Burma Federation of
Student Unions, was arrested in February 1998 for writing a seven-volume
book documenting the history of the Burmese student movement. He
was sentenced to a total of 17 years’ imprisonment, according
to a joint report published in December 2001 by the Thailand-based
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma and the
Burma Lawyers Council. Aung Htun was sentenced to three years for
allegedly violating the 1962 Printer and Publishers Registration
Act, seven years under the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, and another
seven years under the 1908 Unlawful Associations Act. He is jailed
at Tharawaddy Prison.
In April 1998, the All Burma Students Democratic Front announced that
five others were also prosecuted for contributing to the books, including
journalist Tha Ban, a former editor at Kyemon newspaper and
a prominent Arakanese activist. Tha Ban, whose name is sometimes written
as Thar Ban, was sentenced to seven years in prison. He is being held
at Insein Prison.
In August 2002, the human rights group Amnesty International issued
an urgent appeal on behalf of Aung Htun and Tha Ban, saying that
both journalists required immediate medical attention. Amnesty reported
that Aung Htun “has growths on his feet which require investigation,
is unable to walk, and suffers from asthma,” and that Tha
Ban’s eyesight has “seriously deteriorated.”
Aung Pwint, free-lance
Thaung Tun, free-lance
Imprisoned: October 1999
Aung Pwint, a videographer, editor, and poet, and Thaung Tun, an
editor, reporter, and poet better known by his pen name Nyein Thit,
were arrested separately in early October 1999. CPJ sources said
they were arrested for making independent video documentaries that
portrayed “real life” in Burma, including footage of
forced labor and hardship in rural areas. Aung Pwint worked at a
private media company that produced videos for tourism and educational
purposes, but he also worked with Thaung Tun on documentary-style
projects. Their videotapes circulated through underground networks.
The military government had prohibited Aung Pwint from making videos
in 1996 “because they were considered to show too negative
a picture of Burmese society and living standards,” according
to Human Rights Watch, which awarded Aung Pwint a Hellman-Hammett
grant in 2001. A notable poet, he has also written under the name
Maung Aung Pwint.
The two men were tried together, and each was sentenced to eight
years in prison, according to CPJ sources. Aung Pwint was initially
jailed at Insein Prison but was later transferred to Tharawaddy
Prison, according to CPJ sources. Thaung Tun was jailed at Moulmein
Prison, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for
Political Prisoners in Burma.
Chen Renjie, “Ziyou Bao”
Lin Youping, “Ziyou Bao”
Imprisoned: July 1983
In September 1982, Chen, Lin, and Chen Biling wrote and published
a pamphlet titled “Ziyou Bao” (Freedom Report), distributing
around 300 copies in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. They were arrested
in July 1983, and authorities accused them of making contact with
Taiwanese spy organizations and publishing a counterrevolutionary
pamphlet. According to official government records of the case,
the men used “propaganda and incitement to encourage the overthrow
of the people’s democratic dictatorship and the socialist
system.” In August 1983, Chen Renjie was sentenced to life
in prison, and Lin Youping was sentenced to death with reprieve.
Chen Biling was sentenced to death and later executed.
Hu Liping, Beijing Ribao
Imprisoned: April 7, 1990
Hu, a staff member of Beijing Ribao (Beijing Daily), was
arrested and charged with “counterrevolutionary incitement and
propaganda” and “trafficking in state secrets,”
according to a rare release of information on his case from the Chinese
Ministry of Justice in 1998. The Beijing Intermediate People’s
Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison on August 15, 1990. Under
the terms of his original sentence, Hu should have been released in
2000, but CPJ has been unable to obtain information about his legal
Chen Yanbin, Tieliu
Imprisoned: September 1990
Chen and Zhang Yafei, both university students, were arrested and
charged with counterrevolutionary incitement and propaganda for publishing
Tieliu (Iron Currents), an underground publication about
the 1989 crackdown at Tiananmen Square. Several hundred mimeographed
copies of the publication were distributed. Chen was sentenced to
15 years in prison and four years without political rights after his
release. Zhang was sentenced to 11 years in prison and two years without
political rights after his release. However, Zhang was freed on January
6, 2000, after showing “genuine repentance and a willingness
to reform.” In September 2000, the Justice Ministry announced
that Chen’s sentence had been reduced by three months for good
Liu Jingsheng, free-lance
Imprisoned: May 28, 1992
Liu was arrested and charged with “organizing and leading
a counterrevolutionary group and spreading counterrevolutionary
propaganda.” He was sentenced to 15 years in prison after
being tried secretly in July 1994.
Liu had belonged to labor and pro-democracy groups, including the
Liberal Democratic Party of China, the Free Labor Union of China,
and the Chinese Progressive Alliance, and had written articles supporting
the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations. During the Democracy Wall movement
in 1979, Liu co-edited the pro-democracy journal Tansuo (Explorations)
with dissident Wei Jingsheng.
Court documents stated that Liu was involved in organizing and leading
anti-government and pro-democracy activities. Prosecutors also accused
him and other dissidents who were tried on similar charges of writing
and printing political leaflets that were distributed in June 1992,
during the third anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.
Liu has had his sentence reduced three times for good behavior,
by a total of one year and eight months. In May 2002, on the 10th
anniversary of her husband’s arrest, Liu’s wife, Jin
Yanming, wrote an account of his imprisonment, trial, and the subsequent
harassment of her family by security officials. The document was
Kang Yuchun, Freedom Forum
Imprisoned: May 1992
Kang disappeared on May 6, 1992, and was presumed arrested, according
to the New York–based advocacy organization Human Rights Watch.
In October 1993, in response to an inquiry from the U.N. Working Group
on Disappearances, Chinese authorities said Kang was arrested on May
27, 1992. On July 14, 1994, he was one of 16 individuals tried in
a Chinese court for alleged involvement with underground pro-democracy
groups. Kang was accused, among other charges, of launching Freedom
Forum, the magazine of the Chinese Progressive Alliance, and
of commissioning people to write articles for the magazine. On December
16, 1994, he was sentenced to 17 years in prison for “disseminating
counterrevolutionary propaganda” and for “organizing and
leading a counterrevolutionary group.” His sentence has been
reduced three times, by a total of three years and eight months, for
Wu Shishen, Xinhua News Agency
Ma Tao, Zhongguo Jiankang Jiaoyu Bao
Imprisoned: November 6, 1992
Wu, an editor for China’s state news agency, Xinhua, was arrested
for allegedly leaking an advance copy of President Jiang Zemin’s
14th Communist Party Congress address to a journalist from the now
defunct Hong Kong newspaper Kuai Bao (Express). His wife, Ma, editor
of Zhongguo Jiankang Jiaoyu Bao (China Health Education News),
was arrested on the same day and accused of acting as Wu’s accomplice.
The Beijing Municipal Intermediate People’s Court held a closed
trial, and on August 30, 1993, sentenced Wu to life imprisonment for
“illegally supplying state secrets to foreigners.” Ma
was sentenced to six years in prison. According to the terms of her
original sentence, Ma should have been released in November 1998,
but CPJ has been unable to obtain information on her legal status.
Fan Yingshang, Remen Huati
Sentenced: February 7, 1996
In 1994, Fan and Yang Jianguo printed more than 60,000 copies of a
magazine called Remen Huati (Popular Topics). The men had
allegedly purchased fake printing authorizations from an editor of
the Journal of European Research at the Chinese Academy of
Social Sciences, according to official Chinese news sources. CPJ was
unable to determine the date of Fan’s arrest, but on February
7, 1996, the Chang’an District Court in Shijiazhuang City sentenced
him to 15 years in prison for “engaging in speculation and profiteering.”
Authorities termed Remen Huati a “reactionary”
publication. Yang escaped arrest and was not sentenced.
Hua Di, free-lance
Imprisoned: January 5, 1998
Hua, a permanent resident of the United States, was arrested while
visiting China and charged with revealing state secrets. The charge
is believed to stem from articles that Hua, a scientist at Stanford
University, had written about China’s missile defense system.
On November 25, 1999, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s
Court held a closed trial and sentenced Hua to 15 years in prison,
according to the Hong Kong–based Information Center for Human
Rights and Democracy. In March 2000, the Beijing High People’s
Court overturned Hua’s conviction and ordered that the case
be retried. This judicial reversal was extraordinary, particularly
for a high-profile political case. Nevertheless, in April 2000,
the Beijing State Security Bureau rejected a request for Hua to
be released on medical parole; he suffers from a rare form of male
On November 23, 2000, after a retrial, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate
People’s Court issued a slightly modified verdict, sentencing
Hua to 10 years in prison. News of Hua’s sentencing broke
in February 2001, when a relative gave the information to foreign
correspondents based in Beijing. In late 2001, Hua was moved to
Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai, according to CPJ sources.
Gao Qinrong, Xinhua News Agency
Imprisoned: December 4, 1998
Gao, a reporter for China’s state news agency, Xinhua, was jailed
for reporting on a corrupt irrigation scheme in drought-plagued Yuncheng,
Shanxi Province. Xinhua never carried Gao’s article, which was
finally published on May 27, 1998, in an internal reference edition
of the official People’s Daily that is distributed
only among a select group of party leaders. But by fall 1998, the
irrigation scandal had become national news, with reports appearing
in the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend)
and on China Central Television. Gao’s wife, Duan Maoying, said
that local officials blamed Gao for the flurry of media interest and
arranged for his prosecution on false charges.
Gao was arrested on December 4, 1998, and eventually charged with
crimes including bribery, embezzlement, and pimping, according to
Duan. On April 28, 1999, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison
after a closed, one-day trial. He is being held in a prison in Qixian,
Shanxi Province, according to CPJ sources.
In September 2001, Gao wrote to Mary Robinson, then the U.N. high
commissioner for human rights, and asked her to intercede with the
Chinese government on his behalf. Gao has received support from
several members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative
Conference of the National People’s Congress, who issued a
motion at its annual parliamentary meeting in March 2001 urging
the Central Discipline Committee and Supreme People’s Court
to reopen his case. But by the end of 2002, there had been no change
in his legal status.
Yue Tianxiang, Zhongguo Gongren Guancha
Imprisoned: January 1999
The Tianshui People’s Intermediate Court in Gansu Province sentenced
Yue to 10 years in prison on July 5, 1999. The journalist was charged
with “subverting state power,” according to the Hong Kong–based
Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. Yue was arrested
along with two colleagues—Wang Fengshan and Guo Xinmin—both
of whom were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and have since
been released. According to the Hong Kong–based daily South
China Morning Post, Yue, Guo, and Wang were arrested in January
1999 for publishing Zhongguo Gongren Guancha (China Workers’
Monitor), a journal that campaigned for workers’ rights.
With help from Wang, Yue and Guo started the journal after they
were unable to get compensation from the Tianshui City Transport
Agency following their dismissal from the company in 1995. All three
men were reportedly members of the outlawed China Democracy Party,
a dissident group, and were forming an organization to protect the
rights of laid-off workers. The first issue of Zhongguo Gongren
Guancha exposed extensive corruption among officials at the Tianshui
City Transport Agency. Only two issues were ever published.
Wang Yingzheng, free-lance
Imprisoned: February 26, 1999
Police arrested Wang in the city of Xuzhou, in eastern Jiangsu Province,
as he was photocopying an article he had written about political
reform. The article was based on an open letter that the 19-year-old
Wang had addressed to Chinese president Jiang Zemin. In the letter,
Wang wrote—as translated by Agence France-Presse—“Many
Chinese are discontented with the government’s inability to
squash corruption. This is largely due to a lack of opposition parties
and a lack of press freedom.”
About five months earlier, in September 1998, Wang had been imprisoned
for two weeks, during which time authorities questioned him about
his association with Qin Yongmin, a key leader of the China Democracy
Party who received a 12-year prison sentence in December 1998.
On December 10, 1999, Wang was convicted of subversion and sentenced
to three years in prison. His trial was closed, but his family was
notified of the verdict by letter, according to the Hong Kong–based
Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. According to
the original terms of his sentence, Wang should have been released
in February 2002, but CPJ has been unable to determine his legal
Wu Yilong, Zaiye Dang
Imprisoned: April 26, 1999
Mao Qingxiang, Zaiye Dang
Zhu Yufu, Zaiye Dang
Xu Guang, Zaiye Dang
Imprisoned: June 1999
Wu, an organizer for the banned China Democracy Party (CDP), was detained
by police in Guangzhou on April 26, 1999. Mao, Zhu, and Xu, also leading
CDP activists, were reportedly detained sometime around June 4, the
10th anniversary of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations
in Tiananmen Square. The four were later charged with subversion for,
among other things, establishing a magazine called Zaiye Dang
(Opposition Party) and circulating pro-democracy writings online.
On October 25, 1999, the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court
in Zhejiang Province conducted what The New York Times described
as a “sham trial.” On November 9, 1999, all four journalists
were convicted of subversion. Wu was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Mao was sentenced to eight years in prison; Zhu, to seven years; and
Xu, to five years.
In December 2002, Mao was transferred to a convalescence hospital
after his health had sharply declined as a result of being confined
to his cell. Zhu, who has also been confined to his cell and forbidden
from reading newspapers, had been placed under tightened restrictions
at year’s end after refusing to express regret for his actions,
according to the New York–based advocacy group Human Rights
Liu Xianli, free-lance
Imprisoned: May 11, 1999
The Beijing Intermediate Court found writer Liu guilty of subversion
and sentenced him to four years in prison, according to a report
by the Hong Kong–based Information Center for Human Rights
Liu’s “crime” was attempting to publish a book
on Chinese dissidents, including Xu Wenli, one of China’s
most prominent political prisoners and a leading figure in the China
Democracy Party. In December 1998, Xu was himself convicted of subversion
and sentenced to 13 years in prison. On December 24, 2002, Xu was
released on medical parole and deported to the United States.
Jiang Qisheng, free-lance
Imprisoned: May 18, 1999
Police arrested Jiang in the late evening and searched his home, seizing
his computer, several documents, and articles he had written for Beijing
zhi Chun (Beijing Spring), a New York–based pro-democracy
publication. The arrest came after Jiang published a series of essays
and open letters related to the 10th anniversary of the government’s
violent suppression of student-led demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.
One essay called for a candlelight vigil on June 4, 1999; another
urged the government to conduct a full investigation into the massacre;
and a third protested the police’s brutal treatment of Cao Jiahe,
an editor of Dongfang (Orient) magazine who was detained
on May 10, 1999, and tortured while in police custody. Cao had been
detained for allegedly circulat- ing a petition to remember the hundreds
killed by government troops during the Tiananmen crackdown.
During Jiang’s two-and-a-half-hour trial, held on November
1, 1999, prosecutors cited an April essay calling for a protest
vigil, “Light a Thousand Candles,” as evidence of his
anti-state activities. Prosecutors also accused him of circulating
an article on political reform, though Jiang said he showed the
piece to only three friends. On December 27, 2000, thirteen months
after his trial, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court
sentenced Jiang to four years in prison.
An Jun, free-lance
Imprisoned: July 1999
An, an anti-corruption campaigner, was sentenced to four years in
prison on subversion charges. The Intermediate People’s Court
in Xinyang, Henan Province, announced the verdict on April 19, 2000,
citing An’s essays and articles on corruption as evidence
of his anti-state activities.
A former manager of an export trading company, An founded the civic
group Zhongguo Fubai Xingwei Guancha (China Corruption Monitor)
in 1998 and was arrested in July 1999. The group reportedly exposed
more than 100 cases of corruption. During his November 1999 trial,
An “said he was only trying to help the government end rampant
corruption,” according to Agence France-Presse.
In November 2001, An’s family sent a letter to President Jiang
Zemin appealing for the journalist’s release for medical reasons.
An suffers from heart problems and has not received adequate treatment
while in prison, according to Agence France-Presse.
On December 7, 2002, An began a hunger strike to protest prison
conditions, according to the New York–based advocacy group
Human Rights in China. At the end of the year, he was in critical
condition after having refused food for more than three weeks.
Qi Yanchen, free-lance
Imprisoned: September 2, 1999
Police arrested Qi at his home in Cangzhou, Hebei Province. His wife
told reporters that officers confiscated his computer, printer, fax
machine, and a number of documents. Qi, an economist, has published
many articles in intellectual journals and online publications calling
for economic and political reforms. He was also associated with the
online magazine Canzhao (Consultations), a publication linked
to the banned China Development Union.
On May 30, 2000, Qi was prosecuted for subversion before the Cangzhou
People’s Court in a closed, half-day trial. He was sentenced
to four years in prison on September 19, 2000. His sentencing papers
cited as evidence articles he had written for Hong Kong magazines
and overseas Web sites.
Zhang Ji, free-lance
Imprisoned: October 1999
Zhang, a student at Qiqihar University in the northeastern province
of Heilongjiang, was charged on November 8, 1999, with “disseminating
reactionary documents via the Internet,” according to the
Hong Kong–based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.
Zhang had allegedly distributed news and information about the banned
spiritual movement Falun Gong. He was arrested sometime in October
as part of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the sect.
Using the Internet, Zhang reportedly transmitted news of the crackdown
to Falun Gong members in the United States and Canada and also received
reports from abroad, which he then circulated among practitioners
in China. Before Zhang’s arrest, Chinese authorities had increased
Internet surveillance as part of their effort to crush Falun Gong.
Huang Qi, Tianwang Web site
Imprisoned: June 3, 2000
Public security officials came to Huang’s office and arrested
him for articles that had appeared on the Tianwang Web site, which
he published. In January 2001, he was charged with subversion.
In October 1998, Huang and his wife, Zeng Li, launched Tianwang
a missing-persons search service based in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
The site soon became a forum for users to publicize abuses of power
by local officials and to post articles about a variety of topics,
including the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on peaceful demonstrations
in Tiananmen Square, the independence movement in the Xinjiang Uighur
Autonomous Region, and the banned spiritual group Falun Gong.
In December 1999, Huang published an investigative report about
labor abuses committed against workers whom the Sichuan provincial
government had sent abroad. While several domestic newspapers subsequently
investigated and published stories on the case, authorities in Chengdu
began threatening Huang and repeatedly interrogated him about his
Huang has been beaten in prison and has tried to commit suicide,
according to an open letter he wrote from prison in February 2001
that was published on the Tianwang site. His family members, including
his wife and young son, have not been allowed to visit or communicate
with him since his arrest two years ago.
The Chengdu Intermediate Court in Sichuan Province held a secret
trial on August 14, 2001. Family members were not allowed to attend,
and no verdict or sentencing date was released. Huang’s trial
had been postponed several times throughout 2001 in an apparent
effort to deflect international attention from China’s human
rights practices during the country’s campaign to host the
2008 Olympic Games. (Two of the trial delays—on February 23
and June 27—coincided with important dates in Beijing’s
Overseas supporters of Huang regularly post updates on his case
to the Tianwang Web site, which is now hosted on a server outside
Xu Zerong, free-lance
Imprisoned: June 24, 2000
Xu was arrested in the city of Guangzhou and held incommunicado
for 19 months before being tried by the Shenzhen Intermediate Court
in January 2002. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges
of “leaking state secrets” and to an additional three
years on charges of committing “economic crimes.”
Xu, an associate research professor in the Institute of Southeast
Asian Studies at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, has written several
free-lance articles about China’s foreign policy and co-founded
a Hong Kong–based academic journal, Zhongguo Shehui Kexue
Jikan (China Social Sciences Quarterly). Xu is a permanent resident
of Hong Kong.
Chinese officials have said that the “state secrets”
charges against Xu stem from his use of historical materials for
his academic research. In 1992, Xu photocopied four books published
in the 1950s about China’s role in the Korean War, which he
then sent to a colleague in South Korea, according to a letter from
the Chinese government to St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.
(Xu earned his Ph.D. at St. Antony’s College, and since his
arrest, college personnel have actively researched and protested
his case.) The Security Committee of the People’s Liberation
Army in Guangzhou later determined that these documents should be
labeled “top secret.”
The “economic crimes” charges are related to the “illegal
publication” of more than 60,000 copies of 25 books and periodicals
since 1993, including several books about Chinese politics and Beijing’s
relations with Taiwan, according to official government documents.
Some observers believe that the charges against Xu are more likely
related to an article he wrote for the Hong Kong–based Yazhou
Zhoukan (Asia Weekly) newsmagazine revealing clandestine Chinese
Communist Party support for Malaysian communist insurgency groups.
Xu was arrested only days before the article appeared in the June
26, 2000, issue. In the article, Xu accused the Chinese Communist
Party of hypocrisy for condemning the United States and other countries
for interfering in China’s internal affairs by criticizing its
human rights record. “China’s support of world revolution
is based on the concept of ‘class above sovereignty’…which
is equivalent to the idea of ‘human rights above sovereignty,’
which the U.S. promotes today,” Xu wrote.
Xu’s family has filed an appeal, which was pending at press
time. They have not been allowed to visit him since his arrest.
Guo Qinghai, free-lance
Imprisoned: September 15, 2000
Guo was arrested after posting numerous essays on overseas online
bulletin boards calling for political reforms in China. In almost
40 essays posted under the pen name Qing Song, Guo covered a variety
of topics, including political prisoners, environmental problems,
and corruption. In one essay, Guo discussed the importance of a
free press, saying, “Those who oppose lifting media censorship
argue that it will negatively influence social stability. But according
to what I have seen ... countries that control speech may be able
to maintain stability in the short term, but the end result is often
violent upheaval, coup d’états, or war.”
Guo, who worked in a bank, also wrote articles for Taiwanese newspapers.
He was a friend and classmate of writer Qi Yanchen, who was sentenced
to four years in prison on subversion charges just four days after
Guo’s arrest (see above). One of Guo’s last online essays
appealed for Qi’s release. On April 3, 2001, a court in Cangzhou,
Hebei Province, tried Guo on subversion charges. On April 26, he
was sentenced to four years in prison.
Liu Weifang, free-lance
Imprisoned: October 2000
Liu was arrested sometime after September 26, 2000, when security
officials from the Ninth Agricultural Brigade District,
in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, came to his house, confiscated
his computer, and announced that he
was being officially investigated, according to an account that
Liu posted online. His most recent essay was dated October 20, 2000.
Liu had recently posted a number of essays criticizing China’s
leaders and political system in Internet chat rooms. The essays, which
the author signed either with his real name or with the initials “lgwf,”
covered topics such as official corruption, development policies in
China’s western regions, and environmental issues. At press
time, the articles were available online at http://liuweifang.ipfox.com.
“The reasons for my actions are all above-board,” Liu
wrote in one essay. “They are not aimed at any one person or
any organization; rather, they are directed at any behavior in society
that harms humanity. The goal is to speed up humanity’s progress
and development.” The official Xinjiang Daily characterized
Liu’s work as “a major threat to national security.”
According to a June 15, 2001, report in the Xinjiang Daily,
the Ninth Agricultural Brigade District’s Intermediate People’s
Court had sentenced Liu to three years in prison.
Jiang Weiping, free-lance
Imprisoned: December 4, 2000
Jiang was arrested after publishing a number of articles in the Hong
Kong magazine Qianshao (Frontline), a monthly Chinese-language
magazine focusing on mainland affairs, revealing corruption scandals
in northeastern China.
Jiang wrote the Qianshao articles, which were published between
June and September 1999, under various pen names. His coverage exposed
several major corruption scandals involving high-level officials.
Notably, Jiang reported that Shenyang vice mayor Ma Xiangdong had
lost nearly 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million) in public funds gambling
in Macau casinos. Jiang also revealed that Liaoning provincial governor
Bo Xilai had covered up corruption among his friends and family during
his years as Dalian mayor.
Soon after these cases were publicized in Qianshao and other
Hong Kong media, central authorities detained Ma. He was accused of
taking bribes, embezzling public funds, and gambling overseas and
was executed for these crimes in December 2001. After Ma’s arrest,
his case was widely reported in the domestic press and used as an
example in the government’s ongoing fight against corruption.
However, in May 2001, Jiang was indicted for “revealing state
The Dalian Intermediate Court held a secret trial in September 2001.
On January 25, 2002, the court formally sentenced Jiang to eight
years in prison on charges including “inciting to subvert
state power” and “illegally providing state secrets
overseas.” This judgment amended an earlier decision to sentence
Jiang to nine years. During the January sentencing, Jiang proclaimed
his innocence and told the court that the verdict “trampled
on the law,” according to CPJ sources. He has since appealed
the verdict, but the case remained pending at year’s end.
According to CPJ sources, Jiang has a serious stomach disorder and
has been denied medical treatment. Jiang’s wife and daughter
have not been allowed to see or speak with him in the two years
since his arrest. His wife, Li Yanling, has been repeatedly interrogated
and threatened since her husband’s arrest. In March 2002,
the local public security bureau brought her in for questioning
and detained her for several weeks.
An experienced journalist, Jiang had worked until May 2000 as the
northeastern China bureau chief for the Hong Kong paper Wen Hui
Bao. He contributed free-lance articles to Qianshao.
In the 1980s, he worked as a Dalian-based correspondent for Xinhua
In November 2001, CPJ honored Jiang with its annual International
Press Freedom Award. In February 2002, CPJ sent appeals to Chinese
president Jiang Zemin from almost 600 supporters—including
CBS news anchor Dan Rather, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, and
former U.S. ambassador to China Winston Lord—demanding Jiang’s
unconditional release. That month, U.S. president George W. Bush
highlighted Jiang’s case in meetings with Jiang Zemin during
a state visit to China. No progress had been made in the case by
the end of 2002.
Lu Xinhua, free-lance
Imprisoned: March 10, 2001
Lu was arrested in Wuhan, Hubei Province, after articles he had
written about rural unrest and official corruption appeared on various
Internet news sites based overseas. On April 20, 2001, he was charged
with “inciting to subvert state power,” a charge frequently
used against journalists who write about politically sensitive subjects.
Lu’s trial began on September 18. On December 30, 2001, he
was sentenced to four years in prison.
Yang Zili, Yangzi de Sixiang Jiayuan Web site
Xu Wei, Xiaofei Ribao
Jin Haike, free-lance
Zhang Honghai, free-lance
Imprisoned: March 13, 2001
Yang, Xu, Jin, and Zhang were detained on March 13 and charged with
subversion on April 20. The four were active participants in the
Xin Qingnian Xuehui (New Youth Study Group), an informal gathering
of individuals who explored topics related to political and social
reform and used the Internet to circulate relevant articles.
Yang, the group’s most prominent member, published a Web site,
Yangzi de Sixiang Jiayuan (Yangzi’s Garden of Ideas), which
featured poems, essays, and reports by various authors on subjects
such as the shortcomings of rural elections. Authorities closed
the site after Yang’s arrest.
When Xu, a reporter with Xiaofei Ribao (Consumer Daily),
was detained on March 13, authorities confiscated his computer, other
professional equipment, and books, according to an account published
online by his girlfriend, Wang Ying. Wang reported that public security
officials also ordered Xiaofei Ribao to fire Xu. The newspaper
has refused to discuss his case with reporters, according to The Associated
The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court tried all four
on September 28, 2001. Prosecutors focused predominately on the
group’s writings, including two essays circulated on the Internet
called “Be a new citizen, reform China” and “What’s
to be done?” According to the indictment papers, these articles
demonstrated the group’s intention “to overthrow the
Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and the socialist system
and subvert the regime of the people’s democratic dictatorship.”
No verdict had been announced in the case by the end of 2002.
Liu Haofeng, free-lance
Imprisoned: March 2001
Liu was secretly arrested in Shanghai in mid-March while conducting
research on social conditions in rural China for the dissident China
Democracy Party (CDP). On May 16, 2001, Liu was sentenced to “re-education
through labor,” a form of administrative detention that allows
officials to send individuals to labor camps for up to three years
without trial or formal charges.
After Liu’s arrest, friends and family were not informed of
his whereabouts, and CDP members say they only found out what had
happened to him when
they received news of his sentence in August 2001.
Sentencing papers issued by the Shanghai Re-education Through Labor
Committee cited several alleged offenses, including a policy paper
and an essay written by Liu that were published under different
pen names on the CDP’s Web site. The essay focused on the
current situation of China’s peasants. The committee also
accused Liu of trying to form an illegal organization, the “China
Democracy Party Joint Headquarters, Second Front.”
The journalist had previously worked as an editor and reporter for
various publications, including the magazine Jishu Jingji Yu Guanli
(Technology, Economy, and Management), run by the Fujian Province
Economic and Trade Committee, and Zhongguo Shichang Jingji Bao
(China Market Economy News), run by the Central Party School in the
capital, Beijing. Beginning in 1999, he worked for Univillage, a research
organization focusing on rural democratization, and managed its Web
site. He was working as a free-lance journalist at the time of his
Wang Jinbo, free-lance
Imprisoned: May 2001
Wang, a free-lance journalist, was arrested in early May 2001 for
e-mailing essays to overseas organizations arguing that the government
should change its official view that the 1989 protests in Tiananmen
Square were “counterrevolutionary.” In October 2001,
Wang was formally charged with “inciting to subvert state
power.” On November 14, the Junan County Court in Shandong
Province held a closed trial; only the journalists’ relatives
were allowed to attend. On December 13, 2001, Wang was sentenced
to four years in prison.
Wang, a member of the banned China Democracy Party, had been detained
several times in the past for his political activities. In February
2001, days before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) visited
Beijing, he was briefly taken into custody after signing an open
letter calling on the IOC to pressure China to release political
prisoners. A number of Wang’s essays have been posted on various
Internet sites. One, titled “My Account of Police Violations
of Civil Rights,” describes his January 2001 detention, during
which police interrogated him and held him for 20 hours with no
food or heat after he signed an open letter calling for the release
of political prisoners.
Wang Daqi, Shengtai Yanjiu
Imprisoned: January 24, 2002
Wang, editor of Shengtai Yanjiu (Ecology Research) magazine,
was arrested after leaving his house to go grocery shopping, according
to the New York–based advocacy group Human Rights in China.
Several state security officers also searched his home and confiscated
copies of the magazine, his journal, and other personal items.
Soon after his arrest, authorities said Wang was being detained under
Article 109 of the Criminal Code, which covers the crime of defection
to another country. However, on December 19, 2002, the Hefei Intermediate
Court, in Anhui Province, sentenced Wang to one year in prison on
subversion charges. Prosecutors cited as evidence articles Wang had
written for Shengtai Yanjiu, including one titled “On
the 35th Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution.”
Wang, 70, has repeatedly angered authorities by publishing articles
and editorials that blame the government for China’s ecological
problems. In 1997, state security officers ordered him to stop publishing
Shengtai Yanjiu, but he refused. Wang’s sentence accounts
for time served since February 7, 2002, when his wife was notified
of his arrest. He is due to be released on February 6, 2003.
Tao Haidong, free-lance
Imprisoned: July 9, 2002
Tao, an Internet essayist and pro-democracy activist, was arrested
in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,
and charged with “incitement to subvert state power.”
According to the Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) Web site, which
had published Tao’s recent writing, his articles focused on
political and legal reform. In one essay, titled “Strategies
for China’s Social Reforms,” Tao wrote that “the
Chinese Communist Party and democracy activists throughout society
should unite to push forward China’s freedom and democratic
development or else stand condemned through the ages.”
Previously, in 1999, Tao was sentenced to three years of “re-education
through labor” in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, according to
the New York–based advocacy group Human Rights in China, because
of his essays and his work on a book titled Xin Renlei Shexiang
(Imaginings of a New Human Race). After his early release in 2001,
Tao began writing essays and articles and publishing them on various
domestic and overseas Web sites.
In early January 2003, the Urumqi Intermediate Court tried Tao,
but no sentence had been announced by press time.
Zhang Wei, Shishi Zixun, Redian Jiyao
Imprisoned: July 19, 2002
Zhang was arrested and charged with illegal publishing after producing
and selling two underground newspapers in Chongqing, in central China.
According to an account published on the Web site of the Chongqing
Press and Publishing Administration, a provincial government body
that governs all local publications, beginning in April 2001, Zhang
edited two newspapers, Shishi Zixun (Current Events) and
Redian Jiyao (Summary of the Main Points), which included
articles and graphics he had downloaded from the Internet.
Two of Zhang’s business associates, Zuo Shangwen and Ou Yan,
were also arrested on July 19, 2002, and indicted for their involvement
with the publications. Zuo printed the publications in neighboring
Sichuan Province while Ou managed the publications’ finances.
At the time of their arrests, police confiscated 9,700 copies of Shishi
The official account of their arrests stated that the two publications
had “flooded” Chongqing’s publishing market. The
government declared that “the political rumors, shocking ‘military
reports,’ and other articles in these illegal publications
misled the public, poisoned the youth, negatively influenced society
and sparked public indignation.” Zhang, Zuo, and Ou printed
more than 1.5 million copies of the publications and sold them in
Chongqing, Chengdu, and other cities.
On December 25, 2002, the Yuzhong District Court in Chongqing sentenced
Zhang to six years in prison and fined him 100,000 yuan (US$12,000),
the amount that police said he had earned in profits from the publications.
Zuo was sentenced to five years and fined 50,000 yuan (US$6,000),
while Ou was sentenced to two years in prison.
Chen Shaowen, free-lance
Imprisoned: August 2002
Chen, a free-lance writer, was arrested on suspicion of “using
the Internet to subvert state power,” according to a September
14 report in the official Hunan Daily. The article did not
give the date of Chen’s arrest, although Boxun News, an overseas
online news service, reported that he was arrested on August 6.
Chen, who lives in Lianyuan, Hunan Province, has written numerous
essays and articles for various overseas Chinese-language Web sites,
including the online magazine Huang Hua Gang and Minzhu Luntan
(Democracy Forum). According to his biography on the Minzhu Luntan
Web site (asiademo.org),
Chen’s essays covered topics including China’s unemployment
problem, social inequalities, and flaws in the legal system.
The Hunan Daily article accused Chen of “repeatedly
browsing reactionary websites ... sending in numerous articles of
all sorts, fabricating, distorting and exaggerating relevant facts,
and vilifying the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system.”
The report stated that Chen had published more than 40 articles on
overseas “reactionary” Web sites. Chen is still under
investigation, and it is not clear whether he has been formally charged.
His family has not been allowed to visit him in detention.
Liu Di, free-lance
Imprisoned: November 7, 2002
Liu disappeared on November 7. The following day, security officials
came to her house, which she shares with her 80-year-old grandmother,
and confiscated Liu’s computer, several books, and other personal
belongings. Officials told her family that Liu was being investigated
for “participating in an illegal organization.” Authorities
have not offered her family any further explanation as to her whereabouts.
Liu, 22, is a fourth-year student in the psychology department at
Beijing Teacher’s University. Using the pseudonym Buxiugang
Laoshu (Stainless Steel Mouse), she wrote several online essays
criticizing the Chinese government.
In one essay, Liu wrote that, “My ideals are the ideals of
an open society... In my view, freedom does not just include external
freedom, but freedom within our hearts and minds.” In another
essay, Liu called on Chinese citizens to stop reading official news
and to read only “reactionary” materials. She also wrote
in support of Huang Qi and Yang Zili, Web site publishers who have
been arrested and charged with subversion.
Liu had expressed fears of being arrested and said that school authorities
had called her in for questioning several times prior to her disappearance,
according to online accounts written by her friends and acquaintances.
Liu’s arrest became a rallying point for Chinese Internet users
worldwide, and in December her supporters created a Web site
and launched a global petition demanding her release. By year’s
end, the petition had gathered more than 700 signatures from inside
and outside China.
Liu’s disappearance came one day before the opening of the
16th Communist Party Congress. During the run-up to the congress,
Chinese authorities escalated a crackdown on free expression by
arresting government critics, closing Web sites, and tightening
already stringent control over the official media.
Bernardo Rogelio Arévalo Padrón, Línea
Imprisoned: November 18, 1997
Arévalo Padrón, founder of the Línea Sur Press
news agency, remains in prison despite being eligible for parole,
and his health has suffered as a result of his prolonged imprisonment.
On October 31, 1997, a provincial court sentenced Arévalo
Padrón to six years in prison for “lack of respect”
for President Fidel Castro Ruz and Cuban State Council member Carlos
Lage. The charges stemmed from a series of interviews Arévalo
Padrón gave in late 1997 to Miami-based radio stations in
which he alleged that while Cuban farmers starved, helicopters were
taking fresh meat from the countryside to President Castro, Lage,
and other Communist Party officials in the capital, Havana.
The journalist began his sentence on November 18, 1997, in a maximum-
security prison. On April 11, 1998, State Security officers beat
Arévalo Padrón and placed him in solitary confinement
after accusing him of making anti-government posters. Later, another
prisoner was found to have made the posters.
Arévalo Padrón has also suffered bouts of bronchitis
and was reportedly treated twice for high blood pressure in the
prison infirmary. On January 8, 2000, the journalist was transferred
to Labor Camp No. 20, where he served four months.
On April 6, 2000, the journalist was sent to the overcrowded and
unsanitary San Marcos Labor Camp, where he worked chopping weeds
with a machete in sugarcane fields. Prison authorities constantly
watched Arévalo Padrón, censored his incoming and
outgoing mail, and threatened to send him back to a maximum-security
prison if he did not meet his production quota.
Because of his strenuous work at the labor camps, Arévalo
Padrón developed lower back pain and coronary blockage. After
ignoring Arévalo Padrón’s pain for weeks, in
September 2000 prison authorities allowed him to see a doctor, who
determined that Arévalo Padrón’s poor health
disqualified him from physical work, and that he should permanently
wear an orthopedic brace.
In October 2000, prison authorities informed Arévalo Padrón
that his parole had been approved. But he remained in the labor
camp, a violation of Cuban law.
Early in 2001, Arévalo Padrón was transferred to the
El Diamante Labor Camp, where prison officers continued to harass
him. In February 2001, the journalist’s colleagues reported
that he had again developed high blood pressure. In early March,
Arévalo Padrón complained that officials refused to
take him to a hospital outside the labor camp for treatment. On
March 21, prison authorities relented after pressure from friends,
family, and press freedom organizations. A heart specialist recommended
that Arévalo Padrón check his blood pressure daily,
take medication, avoid tension, and stop smoking.
In May 2001, prison officers routinely ignored the journalist’s
requests to have his blood pressure checked and often withheld his
medication. During the same period, a court again denied him parole
despite his poor health.
On June 30, 2001, the journalist was transferred to another labor
camp. For the prison transfer, he had to walk several miles in the
heat carrying his belongings, the journalist said in a letter to
colleagues. In the new labor camp, he was assigned to a cell for
chronically ill prisoners. He was exempt from physical work but
lacked adequate medical attention and food. Despite his legal right
to be paroled, his jailers told him that he would serve his entire
sentence. In October 2001, judges ignored his request for parole,
and the journalist continued to report constant harassment.
In November 2001, the European Union requested that Arévalo
Padrón be released and allowed to travel to Spain, but authorities
did not respond. The journalist’s request to attend a January
2002 appointment with the U.S. Interests Section Refugee Unit in
Havana was also ignored.
In July 2002, Arévalo Padrón was transferred back
to the maximum-security Ariza Prison. In December 2002, he suffered
from a severe fever and was treated with antibiotics. According
to his colleagues, Arévalo Padrón’s wife, Libertad
Acosta, suspects he contracted a severe bacterial infection. In
addition, he suffers from migraines and high blood pressure, and
his family and friends say his mental health has deteriorated. Arévalo
Padrón’s six-year sentence ends in October 2003.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 2
Raymond Kabala, Alerte Plus
Imprisoned: July 19, 2002
Kabala, publication director of the independent daily Alerte Plus,
based in the capital, Kinshasa, was arrested by plainclothes police
officers and detained at the provincial police department.
The next day, he was transferred to Kinshasa’s Penitentiary
and Reeducation Center (CPRK).
According to local sources, Kabala’s arrest stemmed from a July
11 Alerte Plus article reporting that Minister of Public
Order and Security Mwenze Kongolo had allegedly been poisoned. The
newspaper learned that the information was false and published a correction
the next day.
According to the local press freedom group Journaliste En Danger
(JED), Kabala claims that authorities repeatedly questioned him
about the article’s sources and tortured him during his detention.
On the afternoon of July 22, officers of the Kinshasa/Matete Appeals
Court Prosecutor’s Office arrested Delly Bonsange, the journalist
who had written the offending article. He spent the night in police
custody, and authorities questioned him about the report the next
day. He was later transferred to the CPRK.
On September 6, a Kinshasa court convicted Kabala and Bonsange of
“harmful accusations,” “writing falsehoods,”
and “falsification of a public document.” Kabala was
sentenced to 12 months in prison and fined US$200,000. Bonsange
was sentenced to six months and fined US$100,000.
According to a JED representative who attended the court proceedings,
the “falsification of a public document” charge came because
the actual address of Alerte Plus’ office differs from
the one listed in the paper.
On September 26, Bonsange was transferred to Kinshasa’s General
Hospital after a doctor found his blood sugar levels unusually high.
The journalist told JED that, during the first days of his detention,
officials had barred him from taking his diabetes medication and
following his usual diet.
According to JED, on November 21, a Kinshasa appeals court ruled
that the charge against Bonsange of “writing falsehoods”
was unfounded but upheld the charge of “falsification of a
public document.” The journalist’s six-month prison
sentence was dropped, and he was released on December 3. He was,
however, fined US$750.
The court upheld the charges and the fine against Kabala but reduced
his prison sentence from 12 to seven months.
Kadima Mukombe, Radio Kilimandjaro
Imprisoned: December 31, 2002
Mukombe, a journalist for the private Tshikapa-based Radio Kilimandjaro,
was arrested by agents of the Congolese Armed Forces (FAC) Military
Intelligence Branch (DEMIAP).
Mukombe hosts a local-language radio program that focuses on development
issues in Tshikapa and the surrounding region of the diamond-rich
West Kasai Province. According to the local press freedom group
Journaliste En Danger (JED), on his December 30 program, Mukombe
criticized several local military officials who have allegedly become
diamond traders and have allowed their soldiers to steal from the
local population. On the program, Mukombe interviewed diamond miners
who denounced harassment by these military officials.
Mukombe was accused of “insulting the army.” He was
held at the local DEMIAP station until January 2, 2003, when he
was transferred to the Tshikapa Central Prison. Eyewitnesses said
FAC agents beat Mukombe at the time of his arrest, according to
CPJ was unable to confirm whether authorities intended to prosecute
Mukombe. Local sources said it is possible that Mukombe could be
tried for the offense in the military court system, which has been
known to hand down heavier sentences than civilian courts.
Journalists in the capital, Kinshasa, said that Mukombe had also
been arrested on December 23 following the broadcast of a program
during which he denounced the poverty endured by the local population
while valuable diamonds are mined on a daily basis in the city.
Mukombe was released that day after signing an agreement to no longer
“set the population against the established authorities,”
only to be re-arrested days later. He remained in prison at press
Mamdouh Mahran, Al-Nabaa
Imprisoned: September 30, 2001
Mahran, editor of the controversial weekly newspaper Al-Nabaa,
was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 200 Egyptian pounds
(about US$50) on September 16, 2001, for allegedly undermining public
security, publishing scandalous photos, insulting religion, and causing
The charges stemmed from a June 17, 2001, Al-Nabaa cover
story alleging that a Coptic Christian monk had sex with several women
in a Coptic monastery in southern Egypt and filmed the encounters
to blackmail the women. The piece was accompanied by provocative photos.
The Al-Nabaa article led to demonstrations and riots among
Egypt’s Coptic minority, who viewed the story as insulting to
Coptic Church officials vehemently denied that sexual acts had occurred
in the monastery and pointed out that the monk in question had been
defrocked five years earlier, a fact omitted from Al-Nabaa’s
Mahran was to begin his sentence on October 1, 2001, but he allegedly
suffered a heart attack the day before. He was taken, under guard,
to a private heart trauma center in the capital, Cairo, where he
remained hospitalized under guard at the end of 2002.
Zemenfes Haile, Tsigenay
Imprisoned: January 1999
Sometime in early 1999, Haile, founder and manager of the private
weekly Tsigenay, was detained by Eritrean authorities and
sent to Zara Labor Camp in the country’s lowland desert. Authorities
accused Haile of failing to complete the National Service Program,
but sources told CPJ that the journalist completed the program in
Near the end of 2000, Haile was transferred to an unknown location,
and friends and relatives have not seen or heard from him since.
CPJ sources in Eritrea believe that Haile’s continued detention
is part of the government’s general crackdown on the press,
which began in September 2001.
Ghebrehiwet Keleta, Tsigenay
Imprisoned: July 2000
Keleta, reporter for the private weekly Tsigenay, was kidnapped
by security agents on his way to work sometime in July 2000 and has
not been seen since. The reasons for Keleta’s arrest remain
unclear, but CPJ sources in Eritrea believe that Keleta’s continued
detention is part of the government’s general crackdown on the
press, which began in September 2001.
Selamyinghes Beyene, MeQaleh
Binyam Haile, Haddas Eritrea
Imprisoned: Fall 2001
Beyene, reporter for the independent weekly MeQaleh, and
Haile, a journalist at the pro-government Haddas Eritrea,
were arrested some time in the fall of 2001 and have been missing
since. CPJ was unable to confirm the reasons for their arrests, but
Eritrean sources believe that the detention of the journalists is
part of the government’s general crackdown on the press, which
began in September 2001.
Amanuel Asrat, Zemen
Imprisoned: September 2001
Medhanie Haile, Keste Debena
Imprisoned: September 18, 2001
Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Tsigenay
Mattewos Habteab, MeQaleh
Imprisoned: September 19, 2001
Temesken Ghebreyesus, Keste Debena
Said Abdelkader, Admas
Imprisoned: September 20, 2001
Dawit Isaac, Setit
Seyoum Fsehaye, free-lance
Imprisoned: September 21, 2001
Dawit Habtemichael, MeQaleh
Imprisoned: on or about September 21, 2001
Fesshaye "Joshua" Yohannes, Setit
Imprisoned: September 27, 2001
Beginning September 18, 2001, Eritrean security forces arrested
at least 10 local journalists. Two others fled the country. The
arrests came less than a week after authorities abruptly closed
all privately owned newspapers, allegedly to safeguard national
unity in the face of growing political turmoil in the tiny Horn
of Africa nation.
International news reports quoted presidential adviser Yemane Gebremeskel
as saying that the journalists could have been arrested for avoiding
military service. Sources in the capital, Asmara, however, say that
at least two of the detained journalists, free-lance photographer
Fsehaye and Mohamed Ali, editor of Tsigenay, are legally
exempt from national service. Fsehaye is reportedly exempt because
he is an independence war veteran, while Mohamed Ali is apparently
well over the maximum age for military service.
CPJ sources in Asmara maintain that the suspension and subsequent
arrests of independent journalists were part of a full-scale government
effort to suppress political dissent in advance of December 2001
elections, which the government canceled without explanation.
On March 31, 2002, the 10 jailed reporters began a hunger strike
to protest their continued detention without charge, according to
local and international sources. In a message smuggled from inside
the Police Station One detention center in Asmara, the journalists
said they would refuse food until they were either released or charged
and given a fair trial. Three days later, nine of the hunger strikers
were transferred to an undisclosed detention facility. According
to CPJ sources, the 10th journalist, Swedish national Isaac, was
sent to a hospital, where he is being treated for posttraumatic
stress disorder, a result of alleged torture while in police custody.
His health condition remained unspecified at the end of 2002.
During a July 2002 fact-finding mission to Asmara, a presidential
official told a CPJ delegation that only “about eight”
news professionals were being held in detention facilities, whose
whereabouts he refused to disclose.
Simret Seyoum, Setit
Imprisoned: January 6, 2002
During a July 2002 fact-finding mission to the capital, Asmara, CPJ
delegates confirmed that Seyoum, a writer and general manager at the
banned private weekly Setit, was arrested while trying to
cross Eritrea’s border with Sudan. The driver of the minivan
carrying Seyoum and others was also arrested, after border patrol
agents opened fire on his vehicle, chased it, and captured some of
its passengers. At least one of the fugitives, an Eritrean journalist
who chose to remain anonymous, survived the incident and reached the
Sudanese capital, Khartoum, days later.
Seyoum, a hero of Eritrea’s 30-year independence war against
Ethiopia, is being held in solitary confinement at the Hadish Maaskar
detention facility near the town of Gyrmayka on the border with
Sudan, according to CPJ sources in Eritrea.
Hamid Mohammed Said, Eritrean State Television
Saadia, Eritrean State Television
Saleh Aljezeeri, Eritrean State Radio
Imprisoned: February 15, 2002
During a July 2002 fact-finding mission to the capital, Asmara,
CPJ delegates confirmed that around February 15, Eritrean authorities
arrested Said, a journalist for the state-run Eritrean State Television
(ETV), Saadia (full name unknown), a female journalist with the
Arabic-language service of ETV, and Aljezeeri, a journalist for
Eritrean State Radio. All three were still in government custody
at the end of 2002.
The reasons for their arrests are unclear, but CPJ sources in Eritrea
believe their continued detention is related to the government’s
general crackdown on the press, which began in September 2001.
Tewodros Kassa, Ethiop
Imprisoned: July 7, 2002
Kassa, former editor-in-chief of the Amharic-language weekly Ethiop,
was sentenced to two years in prison on two counts of violating Ethiopia’s
restrictive Press Proclamation No. 34 of 1992 in three articles published
in Ethiop in 1997.
The first charge, “disseminating false information that could
incite people to political violence,” stemmed from two stories:
The first reported that the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary
Democratic Front (EPRDF) had fired personnel at the Debre Zeit air
force base who previously worked for the former regime of Mengistu
Haile Mariam and replaced them with pro-EPRDF workers; the second
article alleged that unidentified individuals had failed in an attempt
to bomb a popular hotel in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The second charge, “defamation,” resulted from another
1997 article in Ethiop, which alleged that a private investment
company specializing in natural-resource development had connections
in the EPRDF government. According to a source at Ethiop,
Kassa was charged even after the newspaper complied with a government
order forcing the publication to print a letter of apology.
At the time of his conviction, Kassa was already in jail. In mid-May,
he was imprisoned for missing a court hearing related to the charges.
Sources in Addis Ababa said Kassa had mistaken the date of the hearing.
Boubacar Yacine Diallo, L’Enquêteur
Imprisoned: December 19, 2002
Diallo, founding publisher, owner, and columnist of the independent
bimonthly L’Enquêteur, was arrested by gendarmes
in the capital, Conakry. The arrest followed the publication of an
article in that day’s edition of L’Enquêteur
alleging that army inspector general Col. Mamadou Baldé had
resigned. Baldé denied the allegation and accused his detractors
of “wanting to do him in,” Agence France-Presse reported.
Diallo was charged with defamation, and on December 20, he was transferred
from the gendarmerie to Conakry’s Central Prison to await
trial. On January 3, 2003, Diallo was provisionally released from
prison. On January 7,
he was convicted of defamation and sentenced to a year in prison.
However, shortly after the sentence was announced, President Lansana
Conté pardoned Diallo.
Iftikhar Gilani, Kashmir Times
Imprisoned: June 9, 2002
Police arrested Gilani, New Delhi bureau chief for the Jammu-based
newspaper Kashmir Times, following a raid on his home earlier
that day by various agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, the
Special Branch of Police, and the Income Tax Department. Authorities
confiscated the journalist’s computer and several documents,
including bank statements, according to his wife. Gilani, who is a
well-regarded independent journalist, also reports for the German
broadcaster Deutsche Welle and the Pakistani newspapers The Friday
Times and The Nation. The journalist’s detention
coincided with the arrest the same day of his father-in-law, Syed
Ali Shah Geelani, a senior separatist leader in Kashmir.
Authorities accused Gilani of possessing classified documents “prejudicial
to the safety and security of the country.” He was charged
under India’s Official Secrets Act, a draconian, colonial-era
law. However, the document cited by investigators as central to
the case had been published in a Pakistani journal and was readily
available on the Internet. Though journalists and international
organizations, including CPJ, highlighted this information in the
days immediately following Gilani’s arrest, military intelligence
officials conceded the point only in December.
In a December 12 evaluation of the document in question, intelligence
officials admitted that the paper was “easily available”
and of “negligible security value.” The government,
however, did not withdraw the case against Gilani until January
10, 2003. The Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Delhi ordered
Gilani’s release on January 13.
Lesley McCulloch, free-lance
Imprisoned: September 11, 2002
Indonesian troops arrested McCulloch, an academic and free-lance
journalist, along with her friend, Joy Lee Sadler, while conducting
security operations in Keuleut District in restive Aceh Province.
The two were taken to the South Aceh District Police Station.
Soldiers also arrested the women’s Acehnese interpreter, Fitrah
bin Amin, but she was soon released without charge.
Spokesman Maj. Taufik Sugiono told The Associated Press (AP) that
the women were carrying a computer disk with digital images and
documents relating to the rebel Free Aceh Movement, known by its
Indonesian acronym, GAM. “We questioned them as they were
foreigners carrying rebel documents in a conflict-area,” Sugiono
told the AP. “We just wanted to know what are they doing here.”
In interviews with journalists, McCulloch and Sadler later claimed
that during their detention in South Aceh, they were sexually harassed,
beaten, and threatened at knifepoint.
GAM rebels have been fighting for Aceh’s independence from
Indonesia since 1976 in a conflict that has killed more than 12,000
people during the last decade alone. McCulloch, a British national
who most recently worked as a lecturer at the University of Tasmania
in Australia, has written frequently on Aceh, specifically about
the military’s alleged profiteering from the resource-rich
province. Sadler, a U.S. national, is a nurse who has treated refugees
in conflict zones.
On September 17, police transferred McCulloch and Sadler to a detention
center in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, and announced that
the two were formally under investigation. Police threatened to
accuse them of espionage but ultimately charged them with carrying
out “activities incompatible with tourist visas” under
Article 50 of the Immigration Law, punishable by up to five years’
imprisonment. Though foreign correspondents accused of visa infractions
in Indonesia have generally been deported, police expressed their
intention to use this case as a stern warning. “Police will
make strong efforts to intensively investigate so this can become
a lesson for foreigners who violate the law in Aceh and Indonesia,”
Aceh police spokesman Taufik Sutiyono told the Agence France-Presse
McCulloch, who maintains that she was visiting friends in Aceh,
told journalists that she believes she was targeted because of her
critical writings about alleged abuses committed by Indonesian security
forces in Aceh.
Trial proceedings began in Banda Aceh on November 25, and on December
30, McCulloch and Sadler were sentenced to five months and four months
in prison, respectively. While announcing his decision, Judge Asril
Marwan said that McCulloch received the harsher sentence because her
actions “could have threatened national security and the territorial
integrity of the Republic of Indonesia,” according to London’s
Both women will receive credit for time served, which means that
McCulloch’s sentence is due to expire in February 2003. Sadler
was freed on January 10, 2003.
Akbar Ganji, Sobh-e-Emrooz, Fath
Imprisoned: April 22, 2000
Ganji, a leading investigative reporter for the reformist daily Sobh-e-Emrooz
and a member of the editorial board of the pro-reform daily Fath,
was arrested and prosecuted in both Iran’s Press Court and Revolutionary
The case in the Press Court stemmed from Ganji’s investigative
articles about the 1998 killings of several dissidents and intellectuals
that implicated top intelligence officials and former president
Hashemi Rafsanjani. In the Revolutionary Court, Ganji was accused
of making propaganda against the Islamic regime and threatening
national security in comments he made at an April 2000 conference
in Berlin on the future of the reform movement in Iran.
The Press Court case remained pending at the end of 2002, but on
January 13, 2001, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Ganji to 10
years in prison, followed by five years of internal exile. In May
2001, after Ganji had already served more than a year in prison,
an appellate court reduced his punishment to six months.
The Iranian Justice Department then appealed that ruling to the
Supreme Court, arguing that the appellate court had committed errors
in commuting the original 10-year sentence. The Supreme Court overturned
the appellate court’s decision and referred the case to a
different appeals court. On July 16, 2001, that court sentenced
Ganji to six years in jail. According to the state news agency IRNA,
the ruling is “definitive,” meaning that it cannot be
The legal situation was not clear, however. IRNA quoted an official
with the Tehran-based Society for Defending Press Freedom in August
2001 as saying, “No one as yet knows which judge or which
officials of the judiciary have made this latest decision.”
The case’s outcome was still unclear at the end of 2002.
Emadeddin Baghi, Fath, Neshat
Imprisoned: May 29, 2000
Baghi, a contributor to the banned daily Neshat who was on
the editorial board of another outlawed daily, Fath, was
detained during a closed-door trial. On July 17, 2001, Tehran’s
Press Court sentenced him to five-and-a-half years in prison.
According to the state news agency IRNA, Baghi was charged with
publishing articles that “questioned the validity of ... Islamic
law,” “threatening national security,” and “spreading
unsubstantiated news stories” about the role of “agents
of the Intelligence Ministry in the serial murder of intellectuals
and dissidents in 1998.”
The charges were based on complaints from a number of government
agencies, including the Intelligence Ministry, the conservative-controlled
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, and former security officials.
The charges also mentioned a 1999 piece Baghi had published in Neshat
responding to another article criticizing the death penalty that had
itself landed Neshat editor Mashallah Shamsolvaezin in jail.
The closed-door trial began on May 1, 2000. In late October 2001,
an appeals court reduced the sentence to three years. Baghi remains
in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
Sergei Duvanov, Prava Cheloveka v Kazakhstane
Imprisoned: October 27, 2002
Duvanov, a prominent 49-year-old journalist known for his criticism
of Kazakh authorities, was arrested on suspicion of raping a minor.
The journalist was officially charged on November 6.
Duvanov denied the rape accusation, saying it was a government effort
to discredit him. The charges came just as Duvanov was preparing
to leave for the United States, where he was scheduled to give a
series of talks at Washington, D.C.– and New York–based
think tanks about political conditions in Kazakhstan.
Shortly after his arrest, Duvanov went on a hunger strike to protest
his detention. He ended the strike after 13 days, when prison authorities
began to force-feed him. His trial, which began on December 24,
was ongoing at year’s end.
Duvanov, who writes for opposition-financed Web sites and is the
editor-in-chief of a bulletin published by the Almaty-based Kazakhstan
Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, is known for his biting
criticism of Kazakhstan’s political system and high-level
officials, including Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Authorities
have frequently harassed him in reprisal for his work.
On the evening of August 28, 2002, three unknown assailants beat
and stabbed Duvanov in the stairwell of
his apartment building, saying of his work, “If you carry
on, you’ll be made
a total cripple.”
On July 9, 2002, the General Prosecutor’s Office charged him
with “infringing the honor and dignity of the president”—a
criminal offense punishable by a fine or up to three years in prison—after
he accused Nazarbayev of corruption in an article. Authorities later
dropped that criminal case against him without any explanation.
Ibtisam Berto Sulaiman al-Dakhil, Al-Nida’
Fawwaz Muhammad al-Awadi Bessisso, Al-Nida’
Imprisoned: June 1991
Bessisso and al-Dakhil were sentenced to life in prison for their
work with Al-Nida’, a newspaper that Iraqi authorities
launched during Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait in 1990. At the
end of 2002, they were the last remaining imprisoned journalists in
Kuwait, which jailed 17 reporters and editors for their work with
Al-Nida’ following the Gulf War, charging them with
The defendants were reportedly tortured during their interrogations.
Their trial, which began on May 19, 1991, in a martial-law court,
failed to meet international standards of justice. In particular,
prosecutors failed to rebut the journalists’ defense that
they had been forced to work for the Iraqi newspaper.
On June 16, 1991, the journalists were sentenced to death. Ten days
later, following international protests, all martial-law death sentences
were commuted to life imprisonment. The other 15 journalists were
freed gradually starting in 1996, most on the occasion of Kuwaiti
emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah’s annual prisoner amnesties
In 2002, the emir pardoned Bessisso and al-Dakhil. But because Bessisso
is not a citizen of any country, no nation is willing to accept
him as a refugee, according to his brother, who lives in the United
States. Al-Dakhil, a naturalized Kuwaiti citizen from Iraq, lost
her citizenship as a result of her conviction and is also awaiting
deportation. Both are currently being held in Kuwaiti jails while
they try to find countries of residence.
Mohamed Zaki, Sandhaanu
Imprisoned: January 30, 2002
Ibrahim Luthfee, Sandhaanu
Imprisoned: January 31, 2002
Ahmed Didi, Sandhaanu
Imprisoned: February 5, 2002
Zaki, Luthfee, and Didi, businessmen who founded, edited, and wrote
for the Dhivehi-language Internet publication Sandhaanu, were
arrested along with their secretary Fathimath Nisreen. Luthfee, Nisreen,
and Zaki were arrested in the capital, Malé. On February 5, Sri Lankan
authorities arrested Didi in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for alleged travel
document violations while he was en route to Bangkok for medical treatment
for a heart condition. According to Luthfee, Sri Lankan authorities
deported Didi to the Maldives, where he was promptly arrested. Zaki,
a native of Mali who lives in Malaysia, was visiting the Maldives
from Malaysia at the time of his arrest.
All four were held in solitary confinement for five months until their
sentencing on July 7, 2002. After a summary three-day trial, they
were convicted of defamation, incitement to violence, and treason.
Didi, Luthfee, and Zaki were sentenced to life imprisonment and one
year of banishment for defamation, and Nisreen received a 10-year
prison sentence, with a one-year banishment for defamation. The four
were sent to Maafushi Prison, which is known for its harsh conditions,
18 miles (29 kilometers) south of Malé.
Before Sandhaanu was effectively closed in early 2002, the
Web site attracted a large audience by local standards, according
to Luthfee. Started in August 2001, the independent publication criticized
the government for alleged abuse of power and corruption and called
for political reform. There is no independent press in the Maldives.
Television and radio are state-run, and the country's three newspapers
are under government control.
Although the Maldivian government claims that the four received a
fair trial, Luthfee told CPJ that their request for legal representation
at the time of the trial was denied.
A Maldives government representative in London sent a statement to
the BBC in 2003 claiming that the charges against Didi, Luthfee, Nisreen,
and Zaki were "purely criminal" because their publication was not
officially registered, and that the four were convicted of inciting
people "to violence...against a lawfully elected government."
Luthfee disagreed and told CPJ that the case against them was politically
motivated, and that it was intended as a warning to others who criticize
the government. Since the media are fully controlled by the Maldivian
government, Luthfee says it is impossible to view opinions or write
anything critical about the government in the official press. Therefore,
Didi, Luthfee, and Zaki decided to launch their independent publication
online from Malaysia, where Zaki emigrated from Mali in 1990. Because
they were concerned about government surveillance inside the Maldives,
Didi and Luftee sent the text of Sandhaanu to Zaki in Malaysia
in PDF files to upload and distribute from there.
On May 19, 2003, Luthfee escaped from custody while receiving medical
treatment in Sri Lanka and has since received asylum outside the region.
It has been reported that conditions for the three remaining people
worsened after Luthfee's escape, and that Didi and Zaki were again
placed in solitary confinement.
In the wake of prison riots in September 2003, Maldivian President
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom pledged to reform his county's prison system.
In mid-December 2003, Zaki and Didi's prison sentences were reduced
to 15 years, and Nisreen's sentence was halved to five years. She
was released from prison but banished to Feeali Island, south of Malé,
on December 13, 2003.
Since March 2003, Didi has been hospitalized because of his deteriorating
heart condition, according to Luthfee. Doctors have asked for his
early release because he needs bypass surgery.
Zaki was allowed to go home on medical leave for two weeks in May
for treatment of kidney stones, back pain, and prostate problems.
Om Sharma, Janadisha
Khil Bahadur Bhandari, Janadesh
Imprisoned: November 26, 2001
Police raided the offices of three publications closely associated
with Nepal’s Maoist movement: the daily Janadisha,
the weekly Janadesh, and the monthly Dishabodh.
Officers arrested nine staff members, including seven journalists,
and also confiscated equipment and written materials. The arrested
journalists included Om Sharma, an editor for Janadisha;
Khil Bahadur Bhandari, executive editor of Janadesh; Govinda
Acharya, an editor of Janadesh; Dipendra Rokaya, an editorial
assistant at Janadesh; Deepak Sapkota, a reporter for Janadesh;
Ishwarchandra Gyawali, executive editor of Dishabodh; and
Manarishi Dhital, an editorial assistant for Dishabodh.
All were arrested about two hours before the government announced
a state of emergency and issued a sweeping anti-terrorism ordinance
that criminalized any contact with or support for Maoist rebels.
On November 5, 2002, nearly one year after their arrests, authorities
released Rokaya, Sapkota, Gyawali, and Dhital without charge. Acharya
was released on December 16, 2002, along with Chandraman Shrestha,
the managing editor of Janadesh, who had been arrested separately.
Sharma, a veteran journalist who is known as an outspoken supporter
of the radical left, and Bhandari, also a longtime journalist associated
with pro-Maoist papers, remained imprisoned in Kathmandu’s
Central Jail at the end of 2002.
Dev Kumar Yadav, Janadesh
Imprisoned: November 28, 2001
Yadav, a reporter for the weekly Janadesh and daily Janadisha,
was arrested in the southeastern district of Siraha. Authorities arrested
him under the provisions of a sweeping anti-terrorism ordinance introduced
in November 2001 allowing for the arrest of anyone suspected of supporting
Maoist rebels. Authorities released him without charge on January
7, 2003, according to the Kathmandu-based Center for Human Rights
and Democratic Studies.
Chitra Choudhary, Nawa Paricharcha, Yugayan
Imprisoned: December 6, 2001
Choudhary was an advising editor at the weekly Nawa Paricharcha
and the former editor-in-chief of Yugayan, both published
in Tikapur, a town in the far-western district of Kailali. He was
also the principal of the National Lower Secondary School in Patharaiya
School. He was arrested at the school on the morning of December 6,
2001, and brought to the Tikapur police station, where Sama Thapa,
editor of Yugayan, was also detained. Both journalists were
later transferred to the regional police station in Shangadhi, the
district headquarters of Kailali.
Authorities arrested them under the provisions of a sweeping anti-terrorism
ordinance introduced in November 2001 that criminalized any contact
with or support for the Maoist rebels. Choudhary, who had written
articles supportive of the Maoist rebels, also spent time detained
at the army barracks in Dhangadhi, according to a local human rights
Thapa was released without charge on April 4, 2002, “because
they could not get any proof of his affiliation with the Maoists,”
said one journalist. Choudhary was still detained at the end of
2002 at an undisclosed location, according to the Center for Human
Rights and Democratic Studies, a Kathmandu-based press freedom group.
Komal Nath Baral, Swaviman
Imprisoned: December 21, 2001
Janardan Biyogi, Swaviman
Imprisoned: December 27, 2001
Army soldiers arrested Baral, an editor at Swaviman weekly,
in Pokhara, the capital of Kaski District. Swaviman, which
is published from Pokhara, was a small newspaper characterized by
local journalists as supportive of the Maoist rebel movement. Several
days after Baral’s arrest, on December 27, soldiers arrested
Biyogi, subeditor of Swaviman.
Authorities arrested the two under the provisions of a sweeping
anti-terrorism ordinance introduced in November 2001 that criminalized
any contact with or support for Maoist rebels. Both men were originally
held in army custody in Kaski, then transferred to a jail in neighboring
Tanahu District, and ultimately imprisoned at Kaski Jail.
Badri Prasad Sharma, Baglung Weekly
Imprisoned: December 25, 2001
Security forces arrested Sharma, editor and publisher of Baglung
Weekly, at his home in the midwestern town of Baglung. Authorities
arrested him under the provisions of a sweeping anti-terrorism ordinance
introduced in November 2001 that criminalized any contact with or
support for Maoist rebels.
Local journalists and human rights activists said that Sharma was
viewed as an independent journalist, though the paper often covered
news about the Maoist rebels.
“Security persons suspect his newspaper is close to the Maoists
because his newspaper covers pro-Maoist news,” one journalist
from Baglung told CPJ. A delegation from the Baglung chapter of
the Federation of Nepalese Journalists visited local administrative
officials and vouched for Sharma’s journalistic credentials.
However, he remained imprisoned in Baglung Jail at the end of 2002.
Debram Yadav, Blast Times, Jana Aastha
Imprisoned: January 1, 2002
Yadav, a reporter for the popular regional tabloid Blast Times
and the Kathmandu-based paper Jana Aastha, was arrested in
the southeastern district of Saptari. He was arrested under the provisions
of a sweeping anti-terrorism ordinance introduced in November 2001
that criminalized any contact with or support for Maoist rebels. He
was imprisoned at Saptari Jail. Yadav was released on January 17,
2003, according to news reports.
Posh Raj Poudel, Chure Sandesh
Imprisoned: January 23, 2002
Police arrested Poudel, executive editor of the newspaper Chure
Sandesh, in the capital, Kathmandu, along with his colleague
Suresh Chandra Adhikari, the paper’s editor-in-chief. Police
initially detained them at the Hanuman Dhoka Police Detention Center
in Kathmandu but later transferred them to southern Chitwan District,
along the Indian border. Chure Sandesh was a pro-Maoist newspaper
published from Chitwan.
On November 26, 2001, the government declared a state of emergency
and issued sweeping anti-terrorism legislation that criminalized any
contact with or support for Maoist rebels. Two days later, police
raided the offices of Chure Sandesh, as well as the home
of the weekly’s publisher, where they seized documents and copies
of the paper, according to the Kathmandu-based Center for Human Rights
and Democratic Studies.
Adhikari was released on November 8, 2002, but Poudel remained imprisoned
at Bharatpur Jail in Chitwan at year’s end.
Bhim Sapkota, Narayani Khabar Weekly, Adarsha
Imprisoned: May 6, 2002
Sapkota, a subeditor for Narayani Khabar Weekly and reporter
for the newspaper Adarsha Samaj, was arrested in the southern
district of Chitwan. Authorities detained him under the provisions
of a sweeping anti-terrorism ordinance introduced in November 2001
that criminalized any contact with or support for Maoist rebels. Sapkota,
who is also a schoolteacher, had previously contributed articles to
the pro-Maoist publications Janadesh and Mahima.
He was imprisoned at Bharatpur Jail in Chitwan.
Shiva Tiwari, Janadisha
Bharat Sigdel, Janadisha
Imprisoned: May 19, 2002
Krishna Sen, Janadisha
Atindra Neupane, Janadisha
Sangeeta Khadka, Jana Ahwan
Imprisoned: May 20, 2002
Tiwari, executive editor of the daily Janadisha, and Sigdel,
a reporter for Janadisha, were arrested on May 19, according
to sources close to the paper. The next day, police arrested Sen,
editor of Janadisha and former editor of the weekly Janadesh;
Neupane, a reporter for Janadisha; and Khadka, a reporter
for the weekly Jana Ahwan. The journalists, all of whom worked
for publications closely associated with the Maoist rebels, were detained
under the provisions of a sweeping anti-terrorism ordinance introduced
in November 2001 that criminalized any contact with or support for
The journalists’ arrests were widely reported in the local
press. However, after news reports emerged in late June 2002 that
Sen may have been killed in police custody, a government-appointed
commission said it found no evidence that he had ever been detained.
Officials have since denied responsibility for Sen’s fate.
Because Sen’s body has not been recovered and no credible
investigation has been undertaken to determine his status, CPJ holds
the government accountable for his fate.
At the end of 2002, Tiwari was imprisoned at Bhadra Bandi Jail,
Sigdel and Neupane were imprisoned at
Central Jail, and Khadka was imprisoned at the Women’s Jail—all
in the capital, Kathmandu.
Dinesh Chaudhari, Spacetime Daily
Imprisoned: November 3, 2002
Security forces arrested Chaudhari, Jajarkot-based reporter for the
national newspaper Spacetime Daily. Jajarkot is a remote
district in western Nepal. Local journalists say that Chaudhari was
targeted for reporting on the alleged torture of area villagers by
government security forces. Chaudhari had recently taken photographs
of the victims for his newspaper. He was arrested under the provisions
of a sweeping anti-terrorism ordinance introduced in November 2001
that criminalized any contact with or support for Maoist rebels. At
the end of 2002, he was being held at a police detention center in
Abdoulaye Tiémogo, Le Canard Déchaîné
Imprisoned: June 18, 2002
Tiémogo, publisher and editor-in-chief of the satirical weekly
Le Canard Déchaîné, was arrested for
allegedly defaming Prime Minister Hama Amadou in a series of unflattering
opinion pieces. Tiémogo accused the prime minister of attempting
to bribe Mahamane Ousmane, the head of Niger’s Parliament, in
a bid to retain his position. According to Tiémogo’s
stories, Amadou offered 6 million CFA francs (US$9,000), which Ousmane
reportedly refused. Tiémogo appeared in court on June 19 and
was ordered held without bail, said sources in the capital, Niamey.
On June 28, the journalist was convicted of libel and sentenced
to eight months in prison. He was also ordered to pay a 50,000 CFA
franc (US$75) fine. In addition, Tiémogo was ordered to pay
Amadou 1 million CFA francs (US$1,500) in damages.
According to CPJ sources, after his conviction, Tiémogo sent
a letter of apology to the judge conceding that the articles’
allegations were unfounded. Though Tiémogo appealed the conviction,
on November 11, the Niamey Appeals Court upheld his sentence.
Munawwar Mohsin, The Frontier Post
Imprisoned: January 29, 2001
Police in Peshawar arrested Mohsin and four colleagues from The
Frontier Post after the newspaper published a letter to the editor
titled “Why Muslims Hate Jews,” which included derogatory
references to the Prophet Mohammed.
Although the newspaper’s senior management claimed that the
letter was inserted into the copy by mistake and apologized for
failing to stop its publication, district officials responded
to complaints from local religious leaders by closing the paper
and ordering the immediate arrest of seven staff members on blasphemy
charges. In Pakistan, anyone accused of blasphemy is subject
to immediate arrest without due process; those found guilty may
be sentenced to death.
At the end of 2002, the blasphemy case was still pending, though Mohsin
was the only journalist from The Frontier Post who remained
in prison. (Two of the journalists charged in the case immediately
went into hiding and were never arrested. The other four were eventually
released on bail.) Mohsin, who was working as the newspaper’s
subeditor, admitted responsibility for publishing the letter, which
he says he had not read carefully. He told The New York Times
that he “could never think of abusing our Holy Prophet”
but confessed that, having only recently completed a drug rehabilitation
program, his mind may have been slightly addled. Mohsin is imprisoned
in Peshawar Central Jail.
Grigory Pasko, Boyevaya Vakhta
Imprisoned: December 25, 2001
Pasko, an investigative reporter with Boyevaya Vakhta (Battle
Watch), a newspaper published by the Pacific Fleet, was convicted
of treason on December 25, 2001, and sentenced to four years in prison
by the Military Court of the Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok. The ruling
also stripped Pasko of his military rank and state decorations.
The journalist was taken into custody in the courtroom and then
jailed. Pasko’s attorney, Anatoly Pyshkin, filed an appeal
with the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court seeking
Pasko was first arrested in November 1997 and charged with passing
classified documents to Japanese news outlets.
He had been reporting on environmental damage caused by the Russian
navy. Pasko spent 20 months in prison while awaiting trial.
In July 1999, he was acquitted of treason but found guilty of abusing
his authority as an officer. He was immediately amnestied, but four
months later, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court
canceled the Vladivostok court’s verdict and ordered a new
trial. Pasko’s second trial began on July 11, 2001, after
having been postponed three times since March.
During the trial, Pasko’s defense argued that the proceedings
lacked a basis in Russian law. Article 7 of the Federal Law on State
Secrets, which stipulates that information about environmental dangers
cannot be classified, protects Pasko’s work on sensitive issues,
such as unlawful dumping of radioactive waste. The prosecution relied
on a secret Ministry of Defense decree (No. 055) even though the
Russian Constitution bars the use of secret legislation in criminal
The defense also challenged the veracity of many of the witnesses,
several of whom acknowledged that the Federal Security Service (FSB)
falsified their statements or tried to persuade them to give false
testimony. An FSB investigator was reprimanded for falsifying evidence
in the first trial, and the signatures of two people who witnessed
a search of the reporter’s apartment were allegedly forged.
Throughout 2001, CPJ issued numerous statements calling attention
to Pasko’s ordeal, and in early June, a CPJ delegation traveled
to Vladivostok before Pasko’s trial to publicize concerns
over the charges.
In early 2002, in a ruling that seemed to bode well for Pasko, the
Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court annulled a clause
of Defense Ministry Decree No. 010, a relic from the Soviet period,
which prohibited “nonprofessional” contacts between
Russian military personnel and foreign citizens. A CPJ delegation
conducted a four-day mission to Vladivostok and Moscow in early
March 2002 to meet with Pasko supporters, politicians, and government
officials to discuss the case but was prevented from visiting Pasko.
At the same time, the Military Collegium nullified Defense Ministry
Decree No. 055 after Pasko’s lawyers had filed a complaint
challenging its legality. This decree listed various categories
of military information as state secrets. Three months later, however,
the Appeals Board of the Supreme Court reinstated the decree.
Pasko was held in a temporary detention facility in Vladivostok
until October 2002, when he was transferred to a prison, as required
by Russian law. On January 23, 2003, a court in the city of Ussuriisk,
in the Russian Far East, granted Pasko parole. He was released immediately
and traveled to his home in Vladivostok.
Under Russian law, Pasko, who had served two-thirds of his four-year
sentence, was eligible for parole based on good behavior. State
prosecutors are contemplating protesting the parole decision, Russian
and international news reported.
Pasko and his defense attorneys plan to seek the reversal of the
journalist’s guilty verdict. According to Russian news reports,
Pasko’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov said a petition has already been
filed with the chairman of the Russian Supreme Court and should
be heard in February 2003. “We are going to work to achieve
the full exoneration of my good name. We’re going to do everything
to ensure that this criminal case is recognized as falsification,”
said Pasko, following his release, according to The Associated Press.
SIERRA LEONE: 1
Paul Kamara, For Di People
Imprisoned: November 12, 2002
Kamara, the founding editor of one of Sierra Leone’s leading
newspapers, For Di People, was sentenced to six months in
prison for defaming a local judge.
Kamara was taken to Pa Demba Road Prison in the capital, Freetown,
after the High Court convicted him on 18 counts of criminal libel
under sections 26 and 27 of Sierra Leone’s Public Order Act.
The journalist was also fined US$2,100 on nine of the 18 counts,
sources reported. On the remaining counts, Kamara has the choice
of either paying a US$1,350 fine or serving an additional three
months in jail. The court also recommended that
the government ban his newspaper for six months.
The verdict against Kamara came almost a year after prominent appeals
court judge Tolla Thompson, who also heads the Sierra Leone soccer
association, accused Kamara of writing libelous articles in For
Di People criticizing the judge’s management of the association.
Kamara owns a popular local soccer team.
According to staff members at For Di People, Kamara appealed
the ruling to the Supreme Court, where he will dispute the legality
of the charges against him, as well as the High Court’s authority
to try the case. At year’s end, the Supreme Court had not yet
considered the appeal.
Meanwhile, Kamara’s staff has vowed to defy any ban and to
continue publishing the award-winning daily. The paper was still
appearing at the end of 2002.
Ibrahim Hemaidi, Al-Hayat
Imprisoned: December 23, 2002
Hemaidi, the Damascus bureau chief for the influential London-based
Pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, was detained by Syrian police in
connection with a December 20 article he wrote discussing the Syrian
government’s alleged preparations for a possible influx of Iraqi
refugees in the event of a U.S.-led attack on Iraq. The Syrian government
denied the report, and Al-Hayat published a statement from
the authorities to that effect on December 24.
On December 27, the official Syrian news agency, SANA, acknowledged
Hemaidi’s detention and said that he is accused of “publishing
false information,” which carries a penalty of up to three
years in prison and a fine of up to 1 million Syrian pounds (US$19,500).
Julien Ayi, Nouvel Echo
Imprisoned: August 8, 2002
Ayi, publication director for the independent daily Nouvel Echo,
was arrested and jailed at police headquarters in the capital, Lomé,
on charges of “defamation of the president” and “disturbing
public order.” Alphonse Nevamé Klu, the paper’s
editor-in-chief, was likewise charged but went into hiding to avoid
The charges against the two journalists stemmed from an August 2 Nouvel
Echo article claiming that President Gnassingbé Eyadéma
had amassed a US$4.5 billion fortune, and that he is one of the world’s
497 wealthiest people, according to a list published in the American
financial magazine Forbes. The article also alleged that
Faure Gnassingbé, Eyadéma’s son and a National
Assembly member, had control over the fortune and that the riches
were “ill-gotten,” the French news agency Agence France-Presse
Following the article’s publication, the government informed
the journalists that it was lodging a complaint with police against
the newspaper. A government statement, meanwhile, verified that Eyadéma
had not appeared on Forbes’ list of 497 names. On August
3, the state television channel broadcast the Forbes list,
pointing out that no Africans appeared in the document. When contacted
by AFP, Interior Minister Sizing Walla said, “The publication
of these lies is a way of inciting the population to rebellion.”
Walla also said that when questioned by police before his arrest,
Ayi had revealed that Claude Améganvi, a trade unionist and
chair of the opposition Workers Party, was the article’s source.
Améganvi was arrested by authorities on August 6 and faces
the same charges as Ayi. Though Améganvi also edits the trade
union newspaper Nyawo, local journalists said his arrest
was most likely not related to his journalistic activities.
On September 13, Ayi and Améganvi were convicted and sentenced
to four months in prison and a fine of 100,000 CFA francs (US$150)
each. Klu was sentenced in absentia to six months in prison and
the same fine.
According to the news Web sites Diastode.org
in early December, an appeals court extended Ayi and Améganvi’s
sentences by two months. Nouvel Echo has not appeared since
Sylvestre Djahlin Nicoué, Courrier
Imprisoned: December 26, 2002
Nicoué, director of the private weekly Courrier du Citoyen,
was arrested in the capital, Lomé, after he published an
editorial in that day’s edition of the newspaper arguing that
if the government did not take swift measures to institute democratic
reforms in the country, the Togolese people would rebel in 2003.
Nicoué was accused of “inciting armed rebellion against
the state” and was detained at police headquarters.
Local sources said that representatives of Togolese journalists’
organizations attempted to intervene on Nicoué’s behalf
by meeting with President Gnassingbé Eyadéma. Hopes
for negotiating the journalist’s release were dashed, however,
when the Courrier du Citoyen published a critical article
in its January 2, 2003, edition titled “Kill Us All and Reign
Over Our Dead Bodies.” The following day, authorities transferred
Nicoué to Lomé Prison.
Hamadi Jebali, Al-Fajr
Imprisoned: January 1991
On August 28, 1992, a military court sentenced Jebali, editor of
Al-Fajr, the weekly newspaper of the banned Islamic Al-Nahda
Party, to 16 years in prison. He was tried along with 279 other
individuals accused of belonging to Al-Nahda. Jebali was convicted
of “aggression with the intention of changing the nature of
the state” and “membership in an illegal organization.”
During his testimony, Jebali denied the charges and presented evidence
that he had been tortured while in custody. Jebali has been in jail
since January 1991, when he was sentenced to one year in prison
after Al-Fajr published an article calling for the abolition
of military courts in Tunisia. International human rights groups
monitoring the mass trial concluded that the proceedings fell far
below international standards of justice.
Zouhair Yahyaoui, TUNeZINE
Imprisoned: June 4, 2002
Yahyaoui, editor of the online publication TUNeZINE, was
arrested at the Internet café where he worked in the capital,
Tunis, and detained. He was sentenced two weeks later to 28 months
A Tunis court found Yahyaoui guilty of intentionally publishing
false information, a violation of Article 306 of the country’s
Penal Code. The charge stemmed from a number of articles posted
on TUNeZINE, including a piece criticizing the May 26,
2002, constitutional referendum in which 99.52 percent of voters
approved constitutional changes allowing President Zine el-Abidine
Ben Ali to run for a fourth term. Yahyaoui was also found guilty
of using stolen communication lines to post his Web site, a violation
of Section 84 of the Telecommunications Code.
Since Yahyaoui established TUNeZINE in July 2001 using
a pseudonym, the site has frequently published articles and commentary—including
the views of leading Tunisian dissidents—that harshly criticize
the Tunisian government. Authorities have blocked the Web site to
users inside Tunisia, but TUNeZINE has often circumvented
these barriers by establishing alternate addresses.
Huseyin Solak, Mucadele
Imprisoned: October 27, 1993
Solak, the Gaziantep bureau chief of the now banned socialist magazine
Mucadele, was arrested and charged under Article 168/2
of the Penal Code with membership in Devrimci Sol (also known as
Dev Sol), an outlawed underground leftist organization responsible
for numerous terrorist operations in Turkey. Solak was convicted
on testimony from a witness who said he had seen the journalist
distributing copies of Mucadele.
According to the trial transcript, the prosecution witness also
testified that Solak had hung unspecified banners in public and
had served as a lookout while members of Devrimci Sol threw a Molotov
cocktail at a bank in the town of Gaziantep. The prosecution also
cited “illegal” documents found after searches of Solak’s
home and office. Solak confessed to the charges while in police
custody but recanted in court.
On November 24, 1994, Solak was sentenced to 12 years and six months
in prison. At the end of 2002, he was being held in Sincan F-type
Hasan Ozgun, Ozgur Gundem
Imprisoned: December 9, 1993
Ozgun, a Diyarbakir correspondent for the now banned pro-Kurdish
daily Ozgur Gundem, was arrested during a December 9, 1993,
police raid on the paper’s Diyarbakir bureau. He was charged
with being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK), under Article 168/2 of the Penal Code.
Trial transcripts show that the prosecution based its case on what
it described as Ozgur Gundem’s pro-PKK slant, following
a Turkish-government pattern of harassing journalists affiliated
with the publication. The prosecution also submitted copies of the
banned PKK publications Serkhabun and Berxehun,
found in Ozgun’s possession, as well as photographs and biographical
sketches of PKK members from the newspaper’s archive. The
state also cited Ozgun’s possession of an unlicensed handgun
as evidence of his PKK membership.
Ozgun maintained that the PKK publications were used as sources
of information for newspaper articles, and that the photos of PKK
members were in the archive because of interviews the newspaper
had conducted in the past. Ozgun admitted to having purchased the
gun on the black market but denied all other charges. At the end
of 2002, Ozgun was being held in Aydin Prison.
Serdar Gelir, Mucadele
Imprisoned: April 26, 1994
Gelir, Ankara bureau chief for the now banned weekly socialist magazine
Mucadele, was detained on April 16, 1994. He was formally
arrested and imprisoned 10 days later on the charge of belonging
to an illegal organization.
The Ministry of Justice informed CPJ that Gelir was charged and
convicted under Article 168/2 of the Penal Code and Article 5 of
the Anti-Terror Law 3713 and sentenced to 15 years in prison by
the Ankara State Security Court for being a member of the armed,
illegal leftist organization Devrimci Sol (also known as Dev Sol).
Court records, however, indicate that he was sentenced to 12 years
and six months. At the end of 2002, Gelir was being held in Sincan
Utku Deniz Sirkeci, Tavir
Imprisoned: August 6, 1994
Sirkeci, the Ankara bureau chief of the leftist cultural magazine
Tavir, was arrested and charged with belonging to the outlawed
organization Devrimci Sol (also known as Dev Sol), under Article
168/2 of the Penal Code.
Court records from Sirkeci’s trial show that the state accused
him of throwing a Molotov cocktail at a bank in Ankara, but the
documents do not state what evidence was introduced to support the
allegation. Prosecutors also cited Sirkeci’s attendance at
the funeral of a Devrimci Sol activist to support the charge that
he belonged to the organization.
Sirkeci said he had attended the funeral in his capacity as a journalist.
He provided detailed testimony of his torture by police, who, he
alleged, coerced him to confess. He was convicted and sentenced
to 12 years and six months in prison and is currently jailed in
Sincan F-type Prison.
Aysel Bolucek, Mucadele
Imprisoned: October 11, 1994
Bolucek, an Ankara correspondent for the now banned weekly socialist
magazine Mucadele, was arrested at her home and charged
with belonging to an outlawed organization under Article 168/2 of
the Penal Code, partly on the basis of a handwritten document that
allegedly linked her to the banned leftist group Devrimci Sol (also
known as Dev Sol). She has been in prison since her arrest.
Court documents from her trial show that the state also cited the
October 8, 1994, issue of Mucadele to support its argument
that the magazine is a Devrimci Sol publication. The prosecutor
claimed that the October 8 edition insulted security forces and
state officials and praised Devrimci Sol guerrillas who had been
killed in clashes with security forces.
Earlier in 1994, Bolucek had been acquitted of the same charges,
so the defense argued that it was illegal for the defendant to be
tried twice for the
same crime. The defense accepted the prosecution’s claim that
Bolucek had written the document but said that the police forced
her to write it under torture while she was in custody. The defense
also argued that a legal publication could not be used as evidence,
and that the individuals who made incriminating statements about
Bolucek to the police had done so under torture and had subsequently
recanted. On December 23, 1994, Bolucek was convicted and sentenced
to 12 years and six months in jail. At the end of 2002, she was
being held in Kutahya Prison.
Burhan Gardas, Mucadele
Imprisoned: March 23, 1995
Gardas, the Ankara bureau chief for the now banned weekly socialist
magazine Mucadele, was prosecuted several times beginning
in 1994. Court records state that Gardas was arrested on January
12, 1994, at his office and charged with violating Article 168/2
of the Penal Code. During a search of the premises, police reportedly
found four copies of “news bulletins” of the outlawed
organization Devrimci Sol (also known as Dev Sol).
During the trial, the prosecution claimed that police also found
banners with left-wing slogans, along with photographs of Devrimci
Sol militants who had been killed in clashes with government security
forces. The prosecution also claimed that Gardas shouted anti-state
slogans during his arrest, and that he was using Mucadele’s
office for Devrimci Sol activities.
Gardas denied all the charges. His attorney argued that the illegal
publications were part of the magazine’s archive and that
Gardas had been tortured in prison, submitting a medical report
to prove the allegation. On May 14, 1994, Gardas was released pending
his trial’s outcome.
While awaiting the verdict in the 1994 prosecution, Gardas was arrested
on March 23, 1995, when police raided the office of the successor
to Mucadele, the weekly socialist magazine Kurtulus,
for which he was also the Ankara bureau chief. Officials said he
had violated Article 168/2 of the Penal Code because of his alleged
membership in the banned organization Devrimci Sol. During the raid,
police seized three copies of Kurtulus “news bulletins”
and six Kurtulus articles discussing illegal rallies.
Court documents from his second trial, held at the Number 2 State
Security Court of Ankara, reveal that the prosecution’s evidence
against Gardas consisted of his refusal to talk during a police
interrogation—allegedly a Devrimci Sol policy—and his
possession of publications that the prosecution contended were the
mouthpieces of outlawed organizations. In addition, Ali Han, an
employee at Kurtulus’ Ankara bureau, testified that
Gardas was a Devrimci Sol member. Gardas denied the claim, and his
lawyer argued that his client had the constitutional right to remain
silent during police interrogations.
On July 4, 1995, the Number 1 State Security Court of Ankara sentenced
Gardas to 15 years in prison on the 1994 charge. In 1996, he was
convicted and sentenced to an additional 15 years for the second
set of charges. At the end of 2002, Gardas was serving his term
at Kirsehir Prison.
Ozgur Gudenoglu, Mucadele
Imprisoned: May 24, 1995
Gudenoglu, Konya bureau chief of the now banned socialist weekly
magazine Mucadele, was arrested, charged, tried, and convicted
under Article 168/2 of the Penal Code for belonging to an illegal
organization. He was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison
for alleged membership in the outlawed leftist organization Devrimci
Sol (also known as Dev Sol). Gudenoglu was reportedly jailed in
Fatma Harman, Atilim
Imprisoned: June 24, 1995
Harman, a reporter for the now banned socialist weekly Atilim,
was detained during a June 15, 1995, police raid on the newspaper’s
On June 24, 1995, Harman was formally arrested and charged under
Article 168/2 of the Penal Code for allegedly belonging to the outlawed
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP). Atilim’s
lawyer reported that the prosecution based its case on the argument
that the MKLP published Atilim. The prosecution introduced
copies of Atilim found in Harman’s possession as
evidence of her affiliation with the MLKP and claimed that several
unspecified “banners” were found in the Atilim office.
The prosecution also alleged that Harman lived in a house belonging
to the MLKP. On January 26, 1996, Harman was sentenced to 12 years
and six months in prison and jailed in Adana Prison. She is currently
in Nidge Prison.
Erdal Dogan, Alinteri
Imprisoned: July 10, 1995
Dogan, an Ankara reporter for the now banned socialist weekly Alinteri,
was arrested and later charged under Article 168/2 of the Penal
Code for allegedly belonging to the outlawed Turkish Revolutionary
Communist Union (TIKB).
According to the trial transcript, the prosecution argued that the
TIKB published Alinteri. The case against Dogan was based
on the following evidence:
(1) a photograph of Dogan, taken at a 1992 May Day parade, allegedly
showing him standing underneath a United Revolutionary Trade Union
(2) a photograph of Dogan taken on
the anniversary of a TIKB militant’s death;
(3) a photograph
allegedly showing Dogan attending an illegal demonstration in the
(4) a statement of an alleged member of the TIKB
who claimed that Dogan belonged to the organization.
The defense argued that the incriminating statement was invalid
because it had been extracted under torture. Dogan’s lawyer
told CPJ that the photograph from the militant’s memorial
was blurry, and Dogan testified in court that he had attended the
May Day parade in his capacity as a journalist. He was convicted,
sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison, and jailed in Bursa
Prison. At the end of 2002, he was being held in Bolu Prison.
Sadik Celik, Kurtulus
Imprisoned: December 23, 1995
Celik, Zonguldak bureau chief for the now banned leftist weekly
Kurtulus, was detained and charged with violating Article
168/2 of the Penal Code for allegedly belonging to the outlawed
Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).
The prosecution claimed that the DHKP-C published Kurtulus,
and that Celik’s position with the magazine proved he was
a member of the group. Celik was accused of conducting “seminars”
for the DHKP-C at the magazine’s office, propagandizing for
the organization, transporting copies of the magazine from Istanbul
to Zonguldak by bus, and organizing the magazine’s distribution
in Zonguldak. The prosecution also stated that Celik’s name
appeared in a document written by a DHKP-C leader. (It is not clear
whether the document was introduced as material evidence.)
The prosecution claimed that Celik’s refusal to speak while
in police custody proved his guilt. The defense argued that the
prosecution could not substantiate any of its claims. Celik acknowledged
having distributed the magazine in his capacity as Kurtulus’
bureau chief. He said that he had held meetings in the office to
discuss the magazine’s affairs. The defense presented the
statements of two Kurtulus reporters to corroborate Celik’s
statements. On October 17, 1996, Celik was sentenced to 12 years
and six months in prison.
Mustafa Benli, Hedef, Alevi Halk Gercegi
Imprisoned: May 11, 1998
Benli, owner and editor of the leftist publications Hedef
and Alevi Halk Gercegi, was arrested on or about May 11,
1998, and later charged with “membership in an illegal organization,”
a crime under Article 168/2 of the Penal Code. According to court
documents, the prosecution charged that Hedef was the mouthpiece
of the Turkish Revolutionary Party, and that authorities had found
copies of illegal magazines in Benli’s possession. That, along
with articles published in Hedef and Alevi Halk Gercegi,
was cited as partial proof of Benli’s membership in the organization.
He was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison and is currently
in Edirne Prison.
Memik Horuz, Ozgur Gelecek, Isci Koylu
Imprisoned: June 18, 2001
Horuz, editor of the leftist publications Ozgur Gelecek
and Isci Koylu, was arrested and later charged with “membership
in an illegal organization,” a crime under Article 168/2 of
the Penal Code. Prosecutors based the case against Horuz on interviews
he had allegedly conducted with leftist guerrillas in Topcam, which
Ozgur Gelecek later published in 2000 and 2001. The state
also based its case on the testimony of an alleged former militant
who claimed that the journalist belonged to the outlawed Marxist-Leninist
Communist Party. Horuz was convicted on June 12, 2002, and sentenced
to 15 years in prison. He is currently in Sincan F-type Prison.
Sinan Kara, Datca Haber
Imprisoned: December 25, 2002
Kara, publisher of the weekly Datca Haber, was sentenced
by a criminal court in the southwestern province of Mugla to three
months in prison in April 2001 for violating the Press Law, which
requires that newspapers distribute two copies of each edition to
a local government district office. However, after the Turkish government
amended the law in August 2002, Kara’s penalty was converted
in September 2002 to a 30 billion lira (US$18,000) fine, which the
journalist was unable to pay.
As a result, a local prosecutor ordered him to serve three months
and eight days in prison for not paying the fine. He was jailed
on December 25, 2002, and was in Ula Prison at year’s end.
Local Turkish journalists believe the original suit was intended
to antagonize Kara, whose publication has angered provincial authorities
with its critical coverage, and who has been targeted with several
Mukhammad Bekdzhanov, Erk
Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Erk
Imprisoned: March 15, 1999
Bekjanov, editor of Erk, a newspaper published by the banned
opposition Erk party, and Ruzimuradov, an employee of the paper,
were sentenced to 14 years and 15 years in prison, respectively,
at an August 1999 trial in the capital, Tashkent. They were convicted
for distributing a banned newspaper containing slanderous criticism
of President Islam Karimov, participating in a banned political
protest, and attempting to overthrow the regime. In addition, the
court found them guilty of illegally leaving the country and damaging
their Uzbek passports.
Both men were tortured during their six-month pretrial detentions
in the Tashkent City Prison. Their health has deteriorated as a
result of conditions in the prison.
According to human rights activists in Tashkent, Bekjanov was transferred
on November 27, 1999, to “strict-regime” Penal Colony
64/46 in the city of Navoi in central Uzbekistan. He has lost considerable
weight and, like many prisoners in Uzbek camps, suffers from malnutrition.
Local sources have informed CPJ that Ruzimuradov is being held in
“strict-regime” Penal Colony 64/33 in the village of
Shakhali near the town of Karshi.
Madzhid Abduraimov, Yangi Asr
Imprisoned: August 1, 2001
Abduraimov, a correspondent with the national weekly Yangi Asr,
was convicted of extortion and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
In a January 15, 2001, article in Yangi Asr, Abduraimov
charged that Nusrat Radzhabov, head of the Boysunsky District grain
production company Zagotzerno, had misappropriated state funds and
falsified documents. Abduraimov also accused the businessman of
killing a 12-year-old in a car accident and alleged that Radzhabov’s
teenage son was part of a group that had beaten and raped a 13-year-old
Radzhabov claims that Abduraimov asked him for money and threatened
to publish more accusations unless he was paid. According to the
War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), Radzhabov tried to sue Abduraimov
for slander but dropped the suit after a local prosecutor’s
investigation confirmed the facts in the article.
Authorities arrested Abduraimov and accused him of receiving a US$6,000
bribe. He and a witness quoted by the IWPR claimed that a man threw
the money into the back seat of his car immediately before police
stopped his vehicle, searched it, and arrested him. Abduraimov was
held in the Termez Regional Police Department jail until his trial
began in Termez City Court on July 4, 2001.
According to Abduraimov, the court proceedings were influenced by
local officials who objected to his reporting on corruption in the
oil business. His request for a change of venue was not granted.
He refused to attend the hearings and was sentenced in absentia.
Abduraimov is known for his investigative reporting and critical
stance toward local law enforcement bodies and authorities. The
journalist and his family have been persecuted for several years
with threatening phone calls, and his son was reportedly beaten
by police and sentenced to four months in jail for disorderly conduct.
Supporters say Abduraimov was most likely framed, and it is not
known where he is being held.
Ha Sy Phu, free-lance
Imprisoned: May 12, 2000
Nguyen Xuan Tu, a scientist and political essayist better known
by his pen name, Ha Sy Phu, was placed under house arrest and charged
with treason. The arrest came after an April 28, 2000, raid on Ha
Sy Phu’s home in Dalat, Lam Dong Province, during which police
confiscated a computer, a printer, and several diskettes. They returned
on May 12 with orders for his arrest signed by Col. Nguyen Van Do,
police chief of Lam Dong Province.
Officials suspected that Ha Sy Phu had helped draft a pro-democracy
declaration, according to CPJ sources, and his arrest followed the
government’s long-standing harassment of the writer. Ha Sy
Phu was held under Administrative Detention Directive 31/CP, which
allows two years of house arrest without due process, and was required
to report daily to the Dalat police for interrogation.
In January 2002, police searched Ha Sy Phu’s home and again
confiscated his computer. The raid came during a period of escalating
harassment of dissidents in Vietnam. Though the treason charge against
Ha Sy Phu was withdrawn in January 2001, authorities have renewed
his administrative detention order, and he remained under house
arrest at the end of 2002.
Tran Khue, free-lance
Imprisoned: October 9, 2001
On October 22, 2002, the Foreign Ministry announced that writer
Tran Khue, also known as Tran Van Khue, had been placed under administrative
detention, or house arrest, for two years, and that his term had
begun on October 9, 2001. Administrative Detention Directive 31/CP
allows two years of house arrest without due process.
In September 2001, Khue had been active in failed efforts to legally
register the independent National Association to Fight Corruption.
He had also established online publications, called Dialogue
2000 and Dialogue 2001, which included articles by
himself and others advocating political reform. In January 2002,
the government ordered local officials to confiscate and destroy
all printed copies of the publications.
On March 8, 2002, seven police officers entered and searched Khue’s
home in Ho Chi Minh City and confiscated his computer equipment
and several documents, according to CPJ sources. On March 10, Khue
sent a message via cell phone to a friend indicating that he was
in danger. Immediately after the message was sent, all means of
communication with Khue were cut.
According to CPJ sources, police had searched Khue’s house
for materials relating to an open letter that he sent to Chinese
president Jiang Zemin during Jiang’s visit to Vietnam in late
February 2002. The letter, which was distributed over the Internet,
protested recent border accords between the two countries.
On December 29, 2002, about 20 security officials came to Khue’s
home and detained him for meeting with Hanoi-based democracy activist
Pham Que Duong and his wife. The officers also confiscated his computer
and computer disks. The day before, Duong was arrested at the Ho
Chi Minh City train station as he was returning to Hanoi. A government
official stated that the two men had been “caught red-handed
while carrying out activities that seriously violate Vietnamese
laws.” She said that Khue and Duong will be tried but did
not clarify on what charges or when.
Nguyen Khac Toan, free-lance
Imprisoned: January 8, 2002
Toan was arrested in an Internet café in the capital, Hanoi.
He had reported on protests by disgruntled farmers and then transmitted
his reports via the Internet to overseas pro-democracy groups. Authorities
later charged him with espionage. On December 20, 2002, Toan was
sentenced to 12 years in prison, one of the harshest sentences given
to a Vietnamese democracy activist in recent years.
Toan, 47, served in the North Vietnamese army in the 1970s. After
becoming active in Vietnam’s pro-democracy movement, he began
to write articles using the pen name Veteran Tran Minh Tam.
During the National Assembly’s December 2001 and January 2002
meeting, large numbers of peasants gathered in front of the meeting
hall to demand compensation for land that the government had wrongfully
confiscated from them during recent redevelopment efforts. Toan
helped the protesters write their grievances to present to government
officials. He also wrote several news reports about the demonstrations
and sent the articles to overseas pro-democracy publications.
Toan’s trial took less than one day, and his lawyer was not
allowed to meet with him alone until the day before proceedings
began. The day after Toan was sentenced, the official Vietnamese
press carried reports stating that he had “slandered and denigrated
executives of the party and the state by sending electronic letters
and by providing information to certain exiled Vietnamese reactionaries
in France.” He is currently being held in B14 Prison, in Thanh
Tri District, outside Hanoi.
Bui Minh Quoc, free-lance
Imprisoned: January 14, 2002
Free-lance journalist Bui Minh Quoc was charged with “possessing
anti-government literature,” including his own writings, and
put under administrative detention, or house arrest, for two years
in Dalat District. Administrative Detention Directive 31/CP allows
two years of house arrest without due process. Prior to his arrest,
he had conducted extensive research on Vietnam’s territorial
concessions to China, according to international news reports.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson told journalists that, “The
competent authorities told me that Quoc had violated Vietnamese
law and they will provide more specifics on his violations in the
coming time.” Quoc, a poet and journalist who was a North
Vietnamese Radio correspondent during the Vietnam War, was also
under house arrest between 1997 and 1999.
Le Chi Quang, free-lance
Imprisoned: February 21, 2002
Le Chi Quang, 32, was detained at an Internet café in the
capital, Hanoi. He had written and posted several articles online
criticizing government policy. According to Vietnamese authorities,
officials at a popular domestic Internet service provider notified
the Public Security Bureau that Quang had used computers at a specific
Internet café in Hanoi to communicate with “reactionaries”
living abroad. Security officials then tracked him down at the café.
On September 24, the state prosecutor’s office, known as the
Supreme People’s Organ of Control, issued a document outlining
specific charges against Quang. The document cites several articles
by Quang as evidence of his “anti-government” activities, including an essay
titled “Beware of Imperialist China,” which criticized
land and sea border agreements between China and Vietnam; essays
praising well-known dissidents Nguyen Thanh Giang and Vu Cao Quan; and an
article about the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral trade agreement.
On November 8, following a three-hour trial on national-security
charges, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Quang to four
years in prison followed by three years of house arrest. Quang was
charged under articles 88 and 92 of the Criminal Code, which ban
the distribution of information that opposes the government. Quang’s
parents were the only observers allowed into the courtroom, and
his lawyer was not allowed to present a defense before the court,
according to CPJ sources. While the chief judge in the case told
foreign reporters that Quang had pleaded guilty, CPJ sources said
that he admitted in court to having written the articles mentioned
by the prosecution but denied committing any crime.
During Quang’s trial, about 100 family members and supporters
gathered outside the courthouse. In December 2002, he was transferred
to Sao Do Prison in Phu Ly, south of Hanoi.
Pham Hong Son, free-lance
Imprisoned: March 27, 2002
Son, a medical doctor, was arrested after he posted an essay online
about democracy. Authorities also searched his home and confiscated
his computer and several documents, according to the Democracy Club
for Vietnam, an organization based in both California and Hanoi,
Prior to his arrest, Son translated into Vietnamese and posted an
essay titled “What is Democracy?” (The article
first appeared on the U.S. State Department Web site.) Son had previously
written several essays promoting democracy and human rights, all
of which appeared on Vietnamese-language online forums.
After Son’s arrest, the government issued a statement claiming
that his work was “anti-state and anti-Vietnam Communist Party,”
according to international press reports. At the end of 2002, Son
was being held in B14 Prison, in Thanh Liet Village, Thanh Tri District,
outside Hanoi. By year’s end, authorities had not formally
charged Son or announced his trial date.
Nguyen Vu Binh, free-lance
Imprisoned: September 25, 2002
Security officials searched Binh’s home in Vietnam’s
capital, Hanoi, before arresting him, according to CPJ sources.
Police did not disclose the reasons for the writer’s arrest,
although CPJ sources believe it may be linked to an essay he had
written criticizing border agreements between China and Vietnam.
In late July, Binh was briefly detained after submitting written
testimony to a U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing on
freedom of expression in Vietnam. Authorities then required him
to report to the local police station daily. He was also subjected
to frequent, day-long interrogation sessions.
Binh, a former journalist, worked for almost 10 years at Tap
Chi Cong San (Journal of Communism), an official publication
of Vietnam’s Communist Party. In January 2001, he left his
position there after applying to form an independent opposition
group called the Liberal Democratic Party.
Since then, Binh has written several articles calling for political
reform and criticizing current government policy. In August, he
wrote an article titled “Some Thoughts on the China-Vietnam
Border Agreement,” which was distributed online.
In 2002, Vietnamese authorities cracked down on critics of land
and sea border agreements signed by China and Vietnam as part of
a rapprochement following the 1979 war between the two countries.
Several writers have criticized the government for agreeing to border
concessions without consulting the Vietnamese people.
By the end of 2002, authorities had not filed formal charges against
Binh or announced a trial date.