The Dark Side Of Creative Destruction: The 33 Web Reporters Jailed Worldwide


Last week, North Korea sentenced journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee of San Francisco startup Current TV to 12 years hard labour. They were arrested reporting a story on the country’s border with China months before.

What’s a North Korean labour camp like?

It’s like Hell, reports Al-Jazeera:

Former inmates who have escaped North Korea have given accounts of brutal treatment inside the camps, including regular beatings, forced abortions, and rape.

Others have told of Nazi-style experiments involving chemical and biological weapons resulting in the painful deaths of dozens of prisoners at a time.

Of course, Ling and Lee aren’t the only Web journalist stuck in that type of foreign jail right now. Of the 125 journalists jailed worldwide, the Committee to Protect Journalists lists 31 who published primarily on the Web.

These Web journalists did not have the backing of major media organisations, which possess the money and worldwide influence that can keep journalists out of foreign jails. Of course, the reason these media outlets can get away with running so lean is that the Internet has democratized publishing. And one only need look to Tehran to see that on the aggregate, this is a wonderful development.

But it wasn’t for Ling and Lee, who worked their way across North Korea’s border with only a single cameraman by their side. That was a precarious situation that ended in a fall.

It wasn’t the first. It won’t be the last.


Nay Phone Latt, freelance

Nay Phone Latt, freelance

Country: Burma

Crime: Writing a blog about Burma's youth

Sentence: 20 years and six months

Publication: A personal blog

IMPRISONED: January 29, 2008

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Nay Phone Latt, a businessman also known as Nay Myo Kyaw, wrote a blog and owned three Internet cafés in Rangoon. He went missing on the morning of January 29, according to exile news groups.

The New Delhi-based Mizzima news agency reported that police had detained him at an Internet café and that he was being held at the Ministry of Home Affairs. Nay Phone Latt, whose Web site gave a perspective on Burma's youth, according to news reports, was formerly a youth member of the opposition group National League for Democracy, said Reuters.

A court charged Nay Phone Latt in July with causing public offence and violating video and electronic laws when he posted caricatures of ruling generals on his blog, according to Reuters. (The blog was not accessible in late year.) He was being held in Insein Prison, according to a joint report by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma and the U.S. Campaign for Burma .

During closed judicial proceedings held at the Insein compound on November 10, Nay Phone Latt was sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison, according to the Burma Media Association, a press freedom advocacy group, and news reports.

Maung Thura (Zarganar), freelance

Country: Burma

Crime: Recording footage of relief work in hard-hit areas was circulated on DVD and on the Interne

Sentence: 59 years in prison

Publication: A blog, Zarganar-windoor.

Imprisoned: June 4, 2008

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Police arrested Maung Thura, a well-known comedian who uses the stage name Zarganar, or 'Tweezers,' on June 4 at his home in Rangoon, according to news reports. The police also seized electronic equipment at the time of the arrest, according to Agence France-Presse.

Maung Thura mobilized hundreds of entertainers to help survivors of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated Rangoon and much of the Irrawaddy Delta in May. His footage of relief work in hard-hit areas was circulated on DVD and on the Internet. Photographs and DVD footage of the aftermath of the disaster were among the items police confiscated at the time of his arrest, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma and the U.S. Campaign for Burma In the week he was detained, Maung Thura gave several interviews to overseas-based news outlets, including the BBC, criticising the military junta's response to the disaster. The day after his arrest, state-controlled media published warnings against sending video footage of relief work to foreign news agencies.

During closed proceedings in August at Insein Prison in Rangoon, the comedian was indicted on at least seven charges, according to international news reports.

On November 21, the court sentenced him to 45 years in prison on three separate counts of violating the Electronic Act. Six days later, the court added 14 years to his term after convicting him on charges of communicating with exiled dissidents and causing public alarm in interviews with foreign media, defence lawyer Khin Htay Kywe told The Associated Press.

Maung Thura had been detained on several occasions in the past, including in September 2007 for helping Buddhist monks during antigovernment protests. He maintained a blog, Zarganar-windoor, which his supporters continued to update after his arrest, according to the exile-run press freedom advocacy group Burma Media Association.

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, Net Press

Country: Burundi

Crime: criticised the amount of money spent on a presidential trip to Beijing for the Olympics.

Sentence: Indefinite

Publication: Online agency Net Press

Imprisoned: September 11, 2008

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, director of the online agency Net Press, was arrested on September 11 and charged with defamation.

Philippe Nzobonariba, a top administration official, filed a defamation suit after an August 10 article criticised the amount of money spent on a presidential trip to Beijing for the Olympics. Kavumbagu appealed the charges, but no court date had been set in late year. He was being held in Mpimba Central Prison in the capital, Bujumbura.

Jin Haike, freelance; Xu Wei, Xiaofei Ribao; Yang Zili, Yangzi de Sixiang Jiayuan; Zhang Honghai, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Writing about topics such as rural poverty and village elections

Sentence: Indefinite

Publication: New Youth Study Group

Imprisoned: March 13, 2001

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

The four members of an informal discussion group called Xin Qingnian Xuehui (New Youth Study Group) were detained and accused of 'subverting state authority.' Prosecutors cited online articles and essays on political and social reform as proof of their intent to overthrow the Communist Party leadership.

Yang, Xu, Jin, and Zhang were charged with subversion on April 20, 2001. More than two years later, on May 29, 2003, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court sentenced Xu and Jin to 10 years in prison each, while Yang and Zhang each received sentences of eight years. Each of the sentences was to be followed by two years' deprivation of political rights.

The four young men were students and recent university graduates who gathered occasionally to discuss politics and reform with four others, including an informant for the Ministry of State Security. The most prominent in the group, Yang, posted his own thoughts and reports by the others on topics such as rural poverty and village elections, along with essays advocating democratic reform, on the popular Web site Yangzi de Sixiang Jiayuan (Yangzi's Garden of Ideas). Xu was a reporter at Xiaofei Ribao (Consumer's Daily). Public security agents pressured the newspaper to fire him before his arrest, a friend, Wang Ying, reported online.

The court cited a handful of articles, including Jin's 'Be a New Citizen, Reform China' and Yang's 'Choose Liberalism,' in the 2003 verdict against them. The Beijing Higher People's Court rejected their appeal without hearing defence witnesses. Three of the witnesses who testified against the four men were fellow members of the group who later tried to retract their testimonies.

Yang, Xu, and Jin were imprisoned at Beijing's No. 2 Prison. Yang's wife, Lu Kun, who was also initially detained and questioned, was unable to visit him for four years after his imprisonment, she told reporters in 2005.

Tao Haidong, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Writing that 'the Chinese Communist Party and democracy activists should unite to push forward China's freedom and democratic development.'

Sentence: Re-education through labour for 3 years. It's been 8.

Publication: Minzhu Luntan

Imprisoned: July 9, 2002

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Tao, an Internet essayist and pro-democracy activist, was arrested in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and charged with 'incitement to subvert state power.' According to the Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) Web site, which had published his work, Tao's 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 labour' in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, according to the U.S.-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 articles and publishing them on various domestic and overseas Web sites.

In early January 2003, the Urumqi Intermediate Court sentenced Tao to seven years in prison. His appeal to the XUAR Higher Court later in 2003 was rejected. Now held in Changji, Tao was scheduled for release in July 2009. In a September 2008 letter, he told his family that he was suffering from a heart-related health problem.

Huang Jinqiu, Boxun News

Country: China

Crime: Planning to form a political party

Sentence: 12 years in prison

Publication: Boxun News

Imprisoned: September 13, 2003

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Huang, a columnist for the U.S.-based Web site Boxun News, was arrested in Jiangsu province. Huang's family was not officially notified of his arrest for more than three months. On September 27, 2004, the Changzhou Intermediate People's Court sentenced him to 12 years in prison on charges of 'subversion of state authority,' plus four years' deprivation of political rights. The sentence was unusually harsh and appeared linked to his intention to form an opposition party.

Huang worked as a writer and editor in his native Shandong province, as well as inGuangdong province, before leaving China in 2000 to study journalism at the Central Academy of Art in Malaysia . While he was overseas, Huang began writing political commentary for Boxun News under the pen name Qing Shuijun. He also wrote articles on arts and entertainment under the name Huang Jin. Huang's writings reportedly caught the attention of the government in 2001. Huang told a friend that authorities had contacted his family to warn them about his writing, according to Boxun News.

In January 2003, Huang wrote in his online column that he intended to form a new opposition party, the China Patriot Democracy Party. When he returned to China in August 2003, he eluded public security agents just long enough to visit his family in Shandong province. In the last article he posted on Boxun News, titled 'Me and My Public Security Friends,' Huang described being followed and harassed by security agents.

Huang's appeal was rejected in December 2004. He was given a 22-month sentence reduction in July 2007, according to the U.S.-based prisoner advocacy group Dui Hua Foundation.

Huang's lawyer told CPJ in early 2005 that the journalist had been mistreated in prison and was in poor health. In 2008, his family told CPJ that both his health and treatment had improved. He suffered from arthritis, according to a family member. Huang was serving his sentence in Pukou Prison, near Nanjing.

Kong Youping, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Advocating for democracy

Sentence: 15 years in prison, plus four years' deprivation of political rights.

Publication: Minzhu Luntan

Imprisoned: December 13, 2003

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Kong, an essayist and poet, was arrested in Anshan, Liaoning province. A former trade union official, he had written articles online that supported democratic reforms, appealed for the release of then-imprisoned Internet writer Liu Di, and called for a reversal of the government's 'counterrevolutionary' ruling on the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989.

Kong's essays included an appeal to democracy activists in China that stated, 'In order to work well for democracy, we need a well-organised, strong, powerful, and effective organisation. Otherwise, a mainland democracy movement will accomplish nothing.' Several of his articles and poems were posted on the Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) Web site.

In 1998, Kong served time in prison after he became a member of the Liaoning province branch of the China Democracy Party (CDP), an opposition party. In 2004, he was tried on subversion charges along with codefendant Ning Xianhua, who was accused of being vice chairman of the CDP branch in Liaoning, according to the U.S.-based advocacy organisation Human Rights in China and court documents obtained by the U.S.-based Dui Hua Foundation. On September 16, 2004, the Shenyang Intermediate People's Court sentenced Kong to 15 years in prison, plus four years' deprivation of political rights.

Ning received a 12-year sentence.

Kong suffered from hypertension and was imprisoned in the city of Lingyuan, far from his family. Kong received a sentence reduction to 10 years in his appeal, according to theIndependent Chinese PEN centre.

Shi Tao, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Sending an e-mail on his Yahoo account to the U.S.-based editor of the Web site Minzhu Luntan

Sentence: 10-years in prison

Publication: Minzhu Luntan

Imprisoned: November 24, 2004

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Shi, the former editorial director at the Changsha-based newspaper Dangdai Shang Bao, was detained near his home in Taiyuan, Shanxi province.

He was formally arrested and charged with 'providing state secrets to foreigners' by sending an e-mail on his Yahoo account to the U.S.-based editor of the Web site Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum). In the anonymous e-mail sent several months before his arrest, Shi transcribed his notes from local propaganda department instructions to his newspaper, which included directives on coverage of the Falun Gong and the upcoming 15th anniversary of the military crackdown on demonstrators at Tiananmen Square. The official Xinhua News Agency reported that the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets later certified the contents of the e-mail as classified.

On April 27, 2005, the Changsha Intermediate People's Court found Shi guilty and sentenced him to a 10-year prison term. In June of that year, Hunan Province High People's Court rejected his appeal without granting a hearing.

Court documents in the case revealed that Yahoo had supplied information to Chinese authorities that helped them identify Shi as the sender of the e-mail. Yahoo's participation in the identification of Shi and other jailed dissidents raised questions about the role that international Internet companies played in the repression of online speech in China and elsewhere.

In November 2005, CPJ honored Shi in absentia with its annual International Press Freedom Award for his courage in defending the ideals of free expression. During a visit to CPJ's offices in New York in June 2007, Shi's mother, Gao Qinsheng, highlighted the 2008 Beijing Olympics as an opportunity for the international community to renew calls for her son's release. In November of that year, members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee rebuked Yahoo executives for their role in the case and for wrongly testifying in earlier hearings that the company did not know the Chinese government's intentions when it sought Shi's account information.

Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft later joined with human rights organisations, academics, and investors to form the Global Network Initiative, which in October adopted a set of principles to protect online privacy and free expression.

Zheng Yichun, freelance

Country: China

Crime: criticising the Communist Party and its control of the media

Sentence: Seven years in prison, to be followed by three years' deprivation of political rights.

Publication: Epoch Times

Imprisoned: December 3, 2004

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Zheng, a former professor, was a regular contributor to overseas news Web sites, including the U.S.-based Epoch Times, which is affiliated with the banned religious movement Falun Gong. Zheng wrote a series of editorials that directly criticised the Communist Party and its control of the media.

Because of police warnings, Zheng's family remained silent about his detention in Yingkou,Liaoning province, until state media reported that he had been arrested on suspicion of inciting subversion. Zheng was initially tried by the Yingkou Intermediate People's Court onApril 26, 2005. No verdict was announced, and on July 21 he was tried again on the same charges. As in the April 26 trial, proceedings lasted just three hours. Though officially 'open' to the public, the courtroom was closed to all observers except close family members and government officials. Zheng's supporters and a journalist were prevented from entering, according to a local source.

Prosecutors cited dozens of articles written by the journalist, and listed the titles of several essays in which he called for political reform, increased capitalism in China, and an end to the practice of imprisoning writers. On September 20, the court sentenced Zheng to seven years in prison, to be followed by three years' deprivation of political rights.

Sources familiar with the case believe that Zheng's harsh sentence may be linked to Chinese leaders' objections to the Epoch Times series 'Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party,' which called the Chinese Communist Party an 'evil cult' with a 'history of killings' and predicted its demise.

Zheng is diabetic, and his health suffered a decline after his imprisonment. After his first appeal was rejected, he intended to pursue an appeal in a higher court, but his defence lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, was himself imprisoned in August 2006. Zheng's family was unable to find another lawyer willing to take the case.

In summer 2008, prison authorities at Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning informed Zheng's family that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage, and had received urgent treatment in prison. No lawyer agreed to represent Zheng to help him apply for medical parole, according to Zheng Xiaochun, Zheng's brother, who spoke with CPJ by telephone. He praised the prison guards' swift action in providing treatment for his brother. He said Zheng Yichun was recovering slowly.

Zhang Lin, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Writing about protests by unemployed workers and official scandals.

Sentence: Five years in prison

Publication: Banned overseas Web sites

Imprisoned: January 29, 2005

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Zhang, a freelance writer and political essayist who made a living by writing for banned overseas Web sites, was convicted of 'inciting subversion of state power' and misrepresenting national authorities in his articles and in a radio interview.

Zhang, who spent years in jail in the 1990s for his pro-democracy activism and for organising a labour union, was detained at a train station near his home in Bengbu, in central China's Anhui province. Police apprehended him as he was returning from Beijing, where he had traveled to mourn the death of ousted Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang. He was initially accused of 'disturbing public order,' but police formally arrested him on charges of inciting subversion after confiscating the computer he was using.

The Bengbu Intermediate People's Court tried him on June 21, 2005, in proceedings that lasted five hours, his lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told CPJ. The defence argued that the six articles and one interview cited by the prosecution were protected free expression.

Zhang's wife told reporters that his imprisonment was connected to essays he wrote about protests by unemployed workers and official scandals. On July 28, 2005, the court convicted Zhang and sentenced him to five years in prison.

For 28 days in September 2005, Zhang waged a hunger strike to protest his unjust sentence and the harsh conditions at Bengbu No. 1 Detention centre. Officials there subjected him to long hours of forced labour and refused to allow him to read newspapers or other material, according to his lawyer. During his hunger strike, he was fed through his nose. He was hospitalized briefly before returning to the detention centre.

Zhang's appeals were rejected without a hearing, and he was moved to Nanjiao Prison inHefei City, Anhui province. Zhang's wife told CPJ that his health has suffered during his imprisonment. The couple exchange letters that are sometimes delayed for up to two months, she said. They have two children.

Yang Tongyan (Yang Tianshui), freelance

Country: China

Crime: Getting elected 'secretariat' in a fictional online election

Sentence: 12 years in prison

Publication: Boxun News and Epoch Times

Imprisoned: December 23, 2005

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Yang, commonly known by his pen name Yang Tianshui, was detained along with a friend inNanjing, eastern China . He was tried on charges of 'subverting state authority,' and on May 17, 2006, the Zhenjiang Intermediate People's Court sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

Yang was a well-known writer and a member of the Independent Chinese PEN centre. He was a frequent contributor to U.S.-based Web sites banned in China , including Boxun News and Epoch Times. He often wrote critically about the ruling Communist Party, and he advocated the release of Internet writers Zheng Yichun and Zhang Lin.

According to the verdict in Yang's case, which was translated into English by the U.S.-based Dui Hua Foundation, the harsh sentence against him was related to a fictitious online election, established by overseas Chinese citizens, for a 'democratic Chinese transitional government.' Yang's colleagues say that without his prior knowledge, he was elected 'secretariat' of the fictional government. Yang later wrote an article in Epoch Times in support of the model.

Prosecutors also accused Yang of transferring money from overseas to Wang Wenjiang, who had been convicted of endangering state security. Yang's defence lawyer argued that this money was humanitarian assistance to the family of a jailed dissident and should not have constituted a criminal act.

Believing that the proceedings were fundamentally unjust, Yang did not appeal. Yang had already spent 10 years in prison for his opposition to the military crackdown on demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

In June, Shandong provincial authorities refused to renew the law licence of Yang's lawyer, press freedom advocate Li Jianqiang, who also represented imprisoned journalists Zhang Jianhong and Guo Qizhen.

In April, PEN American centre announced that Yang was a recipient of the 2008 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. A relative told CPJ in October 2008 that they had not received a letter from him in two months.

Guo Qizhen, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Accusing the Communist Party government of using its policies to support an 'autocratic' and 'despotic' regime.

Sentence: 4 years in prison, plus an additional 3 years' deprivation of political rights

Publication: Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) and Epoch Times

Imprisoned: May 12, 2006

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Guo was detained as he prepared to join a hunger strike by the lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was later jailed. Guo was formally arrested on charges related to his prolific writing for U.S.-based Chinese-language Web sites Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) and Epoch Times.

The Cangzhou Intermediate People's Court tried Guo on charges of 'inciting subversion of state authority' on September 12, 2006. He was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison, plus an additional three years' deprivation of political rights.

In the case presented to the prosecutor on June 16, 2006, the Cangzhou Public Security Bureau cited several online essays as proof of Guo's crimes, including one titled 'Letting some of the people first get rich while others cannot make a living,' in which he accused the Communist Party government of using its policies to support an 'autocratic' and 'despotic' regime. Guo was critical of corruption and widespread poverty in the country.

In his defence, Guo argued that his criticism of the Communist Party was protected by the Chinese constitution. In March 2007, an appeals court upheld Guo's conviction.
Three months later, Shandong provincial authorities refused to renew the law licence of Guo's lawyer, press freedom advocate Li Jianqiang, who also represented imprisoned journalists Zhang Jianhong and Yang Tongyan.

Guo is married and has a teenage son. Guo's wife, Zhao Changqing, told CPJ in April 2008 that she had been unable to visit her husband due to the high cost of travelling to the prison. She confirmed that he had suffered beatings that led to a permanent leg injury. Guo also complained of high blood pressure and chest pains.

Zhang Jianhong, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Calling attention to the poor treatment of journalists and their sources two years before the start of the Olympics.

Sentence: 6 years in prison, followed by one year's deprivation of political rights.

Publication: Aiqinhai

Imprisoned: September 6, 2006

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

The founder and editor of the popular news and literary Web site Aiqinhai (Aegean Sea) was taken from his home in Ningbo, in eastern China 's Zhejiang province. In October 2006, he was formally arrested on charges of 'inciting subversion.' He was sentenced to six years in prison by the Ningbo Intermediate People's Court in March 2007, followed by one year's deprivation of political rights.

Authorities did not clarify their allegations against Zhang, but supporters believed they were linked to online articles critical of government actions. An editorial he wrote two days before his detention called attention to international organisations' criticism of the government's human rights record, and in particular, the poor treatment of journalists and their sources two years before the start of the Olympics. Zhang referred to the situation as 'Olympicgate.'

Zhang was an author, screenwriter, and reporter who served a year and a half of 're-education through labour' in 1989 on counterrevolutionary charges for his writing in support of protesters. He was dismissed from a position in the local writers association and began working as a freelance writer.

His Web site Aiqinhai was closed in March 2006 for unauthorised posting of international and domestic news. He had also been a contributor to several U.S.-based Chinese-language Web sites, including Boxun News, the pro-democracy forum Minzhu Luntan, and Epoch Times.

In September 2007, Shandong provincial authorities refused to renew the law licence of Zhang's lawyer, press freedom advocate Li Jianqiang, who also represented imprisoned journalists Guo Qizhen and Yang Tongyan.

Zhang's health deteriorated significantly during his time in jail; he was in the prison hospital in the provincial capital of Hangzhou for a year, according to his wife. He suffered from a debilitating disease affecting the nervous system and was unable to perform basic tasks without help. Zhang lacked adequate medical care in the prison system, according to his wife, Dong Min, who spoke with CPJ by telephone in October 2008. Appeals for parole on medical grounds were not granted. His scheduled release date is September 2012.

Sun Lin, Boxun News

Country: China

Crime: Possessing an illegal weapon -- video equipment.

Sentence: 4-year prison sentence

Publication: Boxun News

Imprisoned: May 30, 2007

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Nanjing-based reporter Sun was arrested along with his wife, He Fang, on May 30, 2007, according to the U.S.-based Web site Boxun News. Sun had previously documented harassment by authorities in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, as a result of his audio, video, and print reports for the banned Chinese-language news site. Boxun News said authorities confiscated a computer and video equipment from the couple at the time of their arrest.

Sun was accused in the arrest warrant of possessing an illegal weapon, and a police statement issued on June 1, 2007, said he was the leader of a criminal gang. Lawyers met with Sun and He in June, but the couple were later denied visits from legal counsel and family members, according to a Boxun News report. A trial was postponed twice for lack of evidence.

A four-year prison sentence for possessing illegal weapons and assembling a disorderly crowd was delivered on June 30, 2008, in a hearing closed to Sun's lawyers and family, according to The Associated Press.

Witness testimony about Sun's possession of weapons was contradictory, according to news reports. The disorderly crowd charge was based on an incident in 2004, three years prior to his arrest. Police accused Sun of disturbing the peace while aiding people evicted from their homes, but Sun claimed he broke no laws.

Sun's wife, He, was also given a suspended sentence of 15 months in prison on similar charges, according to Sun's defence lawyer Mo Shaoping. She was released and allowed to return home soon after the hearing. The couple have a 12-year-old daughter.

Prison authorities transferred Sun to Jiangsu province's Pukou Prison in September 2008, according to a report published by Boxun News. The report said Nanjing authorities refused to return the confiscated equipment. Since seeking a sentence reduction would involve admitting guilt, Sun has resolved to serve the time in full, despite being badly treated by prison guards, according to the report.

Ma Shiping, Qi Chonghuai, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Posting photographs showing a luxurious government building in the city of Tengzhou.

Sentence: 4 and 1.5 years in prison.

Publication: Epoch Times

Imprisoned: June 16, 2007

Imprisoned: June 25, 2007

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Qi and Ma criticised a local official in Shandong province in an article published June 8, 2007, on the Web site of the U.S.-based Epoch Times, according to Qi's lawyer, Li Xiongbing. On June 14, the two posted photographs on Xinhua's anticorruption Web forum showing a luxurious government building in the city of Tengzhou.

Police in Tengzhou detained Ma on June 16 on charges of carrying a false press card. Qi, a journalist of 13 years, was arrested in his home in Jinan, the provincial capital, and charged with fraud and extortion, Li said. Qi was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison onMay 13, 2008.

Qi was accused of taking money from local officials while reporting several stories, a charge he denied. The people from whom Qi was accused of extorting money were local officials threatened by his reporting, Li said. Qi told his lawyer and his wife, Jiao, that police beat him during questioning on August 13, 2007, and again during a break in his trial.

Qi was being held in Tengzhou Prison, a four-hour trip from his family's home, which limits visits, Jiao Xia told CPJ in October 2008. She had been able to visit him in September and reported no evident complaints.

Ma, a freelance photographer, had local media affiliations. Unconfirmed online reports said that he was sentenced in late 2007 to one and a half years in prison. Ma's lawyer did not return phone calls.

Lü Gengsong, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Reporting on the trial and two-year sentence of housing rights activist Yang Yunbiao

Sentence: 4 years in jail

Publication: Overseas Web sites

Imprisoned: August 24, 2007

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

The Public Security Bureau in Hangzhou, the capital of eastern Zhejiang province, charged Lü with 'inciting subversion of state power,' according to human rights groups and news reports. Officials also searched his home and confiscated his computer hard drive and files soon after his detention in August 2007. Police did not provide his wife, Wang, with notification of his formal arrest for more than a month.

The detention was connected to Lü's articles on corruption, land expropriation, organised crime, and human rights abuses, which were published on overseas Web sites. Police told his wife his writings had 'attacked the Communist Party,' she told CPJ. The day before his arrest, Lü reported on the trial and two-year sentence of housing rights activist Yang Yunbiao. Lü, a member of the banned China Democracy Party, was the author of the 2000 book, Corruption in the Communist Party of China, which was published in Hong Kong.

Following a closed-door, one-day trial on January 22, 2008, at the Intermediate People's Court in Hangzhou, Lü was found guilty of subversion. The court handed down a four-year jail term during a hearing on February 5, 2008. Lü's wife, Wang Xue'e, told CPJ in October 2008 that her husband was being held in Xijiao Prison in Hangzhou, where she had regular visitation rights.

Hu Jia, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Advocated for AIDS patients, defended the rights of farmers, and promoted environmental protection

Sentence: 3.5 years in prison

Publication: Various foreign media

Imprisoned: December 27, 2007

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Police charged Hu, a prominent human rights activist and essayist, with 'incitement to subvert state power' based on six online commentaries and two interviews with foreign media in which he criticised the Communist Party. On April 3, 2008, he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. He spent his 35th birthday behind bars on July 25, according to his wife's Web site.

Hu had advocated for AIDS patients, defended the rights of farmers, and promoted environmental protection. His writings, which appeared on his blog, criticised the Communist Party's human rights record, called for democratic reform, and condemned government corruption. They included an open letter to the international community about China 's failure to fulfil pledges to improve human rights before the 2008 Olympics. He frequently provided information to other activists and foreign media to highlight rights abuses in China .

Hu's wife, human rights activist Zeng Jinyan, and infant daughter have been confined to their home under police surveillance, according to news reports.

Zeng applied in April 2008 for medical parole for her husband, who suffered from chronic liver disease, but the request was turned down, according to updates posted on her blog. On visits to Hu, she learned that prison guards had confiscated letters the couple had tried to exchange. He was not allowed to make phone calls to his home.

On August 8, the day of the Olympics opening ceremony and one day after a visit to Hu in his Tianjin prison, Zeng was taken to the city of Dalian, Liaoning province, and only allowed to return to her Beijing home after 16 days. She said she had no contact with the outside world during this period but did not provide further information about the incident in the account she posted on her blog. Human rights groups and news agencies speculated that authorities were trying to prevent foreign journalists from seeking her out for comment during the Games.

Hu raised human rights issues in jail, prompting security officials in September to threaten to curtail Zeng's visitation rights. In October, he was transferred to the Beijing Municipal Prison, according to Zeng's blog.

The European Parliament awarded Hu a prestigious human rights accolade, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, on October 23. The Chinese ambassador to the European Union warned that the prize would 'bring serious damage to China-EU relations,' according to The Associated Press.

Zeng Hongling, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Writing that an official smiled while touring earthquake wreckage.

Sentence: 1.5 years of re-education through labour

Publication: Overseas Chinese-language Web sites

Imprisoned: June 9, 2008

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Police arrested Zeng, an Internet writer, on June 9 and provided her family with official notice that she was detained on a charge of illegally providing information overseas, according to the Chinese Web site 6-4tianwang and the Independent Chinese PEN centre.

Zeng's home in Mianyang, northwest Sichuan, was damaged by the May 12 earthquake, according to Zhang Yu of the Independent Chinese PEN centre. She wrote three articles about her experiences in connection with the disaster, which included criticism of Mianyang authorities, and e-mailed them to overseas Chinese-language Web sites in May. They were circulated to several sites, including the U.S.-based China Information centre which published them under the pen name Shan Shan, according to a statement posted on the site.

One of the essays discussed a popular point of online criticism: that a Mianyang official, Tan Li, appeared to be smiling broadly while touring scenes of destruction after the quake. It was not clear why Zeng's essays were singled out among many discussing similarly sensitive topics in the quake's aftermath.

Zeng is a retired university professor, according to 6-4tianwang, whose founder, Huang Qi, was also arrested the day after the site reported Zeng's detention.

The Hong Kong Information centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in July that the case had been passed to the prosecutor's office in Mianyang and was pending trial. CPJ was unable to confirm a report, given orally to a family friend by an officer at the Mianyang police station, that she had been given an extrajudicial sentence of one and a half years' re-education through labour. Zeng's husband did not return phone calls.

Huang Qi, 6-4tianwang

Country: China

Crime: Reported on the shoddy construction of schools that collapsed during the quake

Sentence: Indefinite

Publication: 6-4tianwang

Imprisoned: June 10, 2008

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

The Web site 6-4tianwang reported that its founder, Huang Qi, had been forced into a car along with two friends on June 10. On June 18, news reports said police had detained him and charged him with illegally holding state secrets.

In the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake on May 12, Huang's site reported on the shoddy construction of schools that collapsed during the quake, killing hundreds of children, and on earthquake relief. His arrest came shortly after the Web site reported the detention of academic Zeng Hongling, who posted critical articles about earthquake relief on overseas Web sites.

Huang was denied access to a lawyer until September 23. One of his defence lawyers, Mo Shaoping, told reporters that Huang had been questioned about earthquake-related reports and photos on the Web site immediately after his arrest, but that the state secrets charge stemmed from documents saved on his computer.

Mo told reporters that his client was deprived of sleep during a 24-hour interrogation session after his June arrest. He was being held in Chengdu Detention centre. Mo told CPJ in October that Huang was waiting for the prosecution to review evidence submitted by police.

Huang's mother, Pu Wenqing, and wife, Zeng Li, appealed for medical parole for Huang, who suffers from ailments that began during a previous detention, according to news reports. Huang spent five years in prison, from 2000 to 2005, on charges of inciting subversion in articles posted on his Web site in 2000.

Du Daobin, freelance

Country: China

Crime: Unclear

Sentence: Indefinite

Publication: Overseas Web sites

Imprisoned: July 21, 2008

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Police re-arrested Du Daobin on July 21 during an apparent crackdown on dissidents prior to the Beijing Olympics in August. His defence lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told CPJ that public security officials arrested the dissident, who is a well-known Internet writer, at his workplace in Yingcheng in the province of Hubei.

Du had been serving a four-year probationary term, handed down by a court on June 11, 2004, for inciting subversion of state power in articles published on Chinese and overseas Web sites. The probationary terms included reporting monthly to authorities and seeking permission to travel. Alleging that he had violated the conditions, police revoked Du's probation and jailed him, according to news reports.

Mo told CPJ in October that the defence team sought to challenge the police decision, but Chinese law does not allow such appeals. Du was being held in Hanxi Prison in Wuhan, the provincial capital.

Pedro Argüelles Morán, Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes

Country: Cuba

Crime: Writing stories that were critical of the Cuban regime

Sentence: 20 years in prison

Publication: PayoLibre

Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Argüelles Morán, director of the independent news agency Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes in the central province of Ciego de Ávila, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Arrested in the government's sweeping crackdown on independent journalists and dissidents, he was tried summarily in April 2003. He was convicted of violating Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy, which punishes anyone who commits acts 'aiming at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.'

Argüelles Morán, a cartographer, began working as an independent journalist in 1993, according to the Miami-based Web site PayoLibre. He often wrote stories that were critical of the Cuban regime. Argüelles Morán has continued writing stories from jail that have been published on overseas news Web sites.

The 60-year-old independent journalist was being held at the Canaleta Prison in his home province in 2008. In September, he went on a weeklong hunger strike with fellow imprisoned journalist Adolfo Fernández Saínz to protest prison authorities' confiscation of religious materials, his wife, Yolanda Vera Nerey, told CPJ. She said her husband developed bone and respiratory ailments in prison, and that cataracts had worsened to the point that he was at near blindness.

Abdel Karim Suleiman (Karim Amer), freelance

Country: Egypt

Crime: criticising his University and calling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a dictator.

Sentence: 4 years in jail.

Publication: A personal blog

Imprisoned: November 7, 2006

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

The general prosecutor's office in the northern city of Alexandria ordered the arrest of blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman, known online as Karim Amer, on November 7, 2006, because of his critical online writing.

On February 22, 2007, a criminal court in Alexandria convicted Suleiman on charges of insulting Islam and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He received a four-year jail term, marking the first time an Egyptian blogger stood trial and was sentenced for his work.

Suleiman had been a student at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, the preeminent higher learning institution in Sunni Islam. He was expelled in 2006 because he frequently criticised the state-run religious university, which he accused of promoting extremist ideas, and Mubarak, whom he referred to as a dictator.

Gopalan Nair, Singapore Dissident

Country: Singapore

Crime: Saying a judge was 'prostituting herself.'

Sentence: 3 months in jail

Publication: Singapore Dissident

Imprisoned: September 20, 2008

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Police detained Nair for six days in May 2008 after he wrote on his blog, Singapore Dissident, that a High Court judge had been 'prostituting herself' in her handling of a defamation case filed by the ruling Lee family against an opposition newspaper. Nair was charged with insulting a public servant.

Nair was born in Singapore but obtained U.S. citizenship in 2005 and resided in California. He had traveled to Singapore to observe a three-day hearing to assess damages in the Lee defamation suit.

Nair, a lawyer and political activist, remained in Singapore for his own trial. On September 18, a court sentenced him to three months in jail, news reports said.

Vettivel Jasikaran, OutreachSL, North Eastern Monthly; Vadivel Valamathy, MTV

Country: Sri Lanka

Crime: 'Inciting communal disharmony'

Sentence: Indefinite

Publication: OutreachSL

Imprisoned: March 6, 2008

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Terrorist Investigation Division forces detained Vettivel Jasikaran, manager of the news site OutreachSL, and his companion, Vadivel Valamathy, both ethnic Tamils. J.S. Tissainayagam, editor of OutreachSL, was arrested the next day.

The Terrorist Investigation Division held the couple without charge for several months under emergency regulations, according to local and international human rights groups. In a court in Colombo on June 30, when the detention was extended for three months, Jasikaran said he had been tortured, according to Amnesty International. The group also said Valamathy had been denied medical treatment following recent stomach surgery.

In August, Tissainayagam was indicted on terrorism charges for 'inciting communal disharmony' in articles published in 2006 in North Eastern Monthly, a now-dormant Tamil-viewpoint magazine that he had edited. Jasikaran's printing business had published the magazine.

Jasikaran and Valamathy were charged with aiding and abetting Tissainayagam, according to M.A. Sumanthiran, the editor's lawyer. The cases against Jasikaran and Valamathy were pending in late year.

The Tamil nationalist Web site TamilNet described Valamathy as a management trainee with the independently owned Sri Lankan TV network MTV.

Dzhamshid Karimov, freelance

Country: Uzebekistan

Crime: criticised both local and federal authorities in his coverage of Uzbek social and economic problems.

Sentence: Involuntarily and indefinitely committed to a pyschiatric hospital

Publication: Liter

Imprisoned: September 12, 2006

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

The nephew of President Islam Karimov, Dzhamshid Karimov disappeared from his hometown of Jizzakh in September 2006. A few days later, his friends discovered the journalist in a psychiatric hospital in Samarkand, where he had been forcibly committed by Uzbek authorities.

Government officials refused to release any information on the court proceedings that led to his involuntary confinement, and independent experts were not allowed to examine Karimov, according to news reports. A 2007 Human Rights Watch report said Karimov's health had deteriorated, and his eyesight had worsened considerably. Karimov was kept in isolation and was not allowed visitors.

Karimov contributed reports to the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting and later worked for a number of independent newspapers and online publications, the Almaty-based news Web site Liter among them. Karimov criticised both local and federal authorities in his coverage of Uzbek social and economic problems.

Local authorities had closely monitored Karimov's journalism, and police had followed him prior to his confinement. In August 2006, authorities seized Karimov's passport when he applied for an exit visa to attend a journalism seminar in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan . CPJ and other rights groups repeatedly called on President Karimov to release the journalist.

Nguyen Van Hai, Dieu Cay

Country: Vietnam

Crime: Called for demonstrations against the Beijing Olympic torch relay

Sentence: 30 months in prison

Publication: Dieu Cay

Imprisoned: April 19, 2008

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Hai was arrested on April 19 and held without charge for five months, according to news reports. A closed court convicted him of tax evasion on September 10.

Hai, who also goes by the name Nguyen Hoang Hai, was an outspoken commentator on his political blog Dieu Cay (The Peasant's Pipe). He was sentenced to 30 months in prison for failing to pay 10 years of taxes on part of a building that he rented to an optical shop. International news reports quoted his lawyer as saying the taxes should have been paid by the tenant, according to the rental agreement.

Several of Hai's blog entries had touched on politically sensitive issues. He had reported on national protests against China, which disputes Vietnam 's claim to sovereignty over the nearby Spratly and Paracel Islands. Protests over the issue were launched in January. Hai also called for demonstrations against the Beijing Olympic torch relay, which was scheduled to pass through Ho Chi Minh City on April 29, according to the Web site of Viet Tan, an exiled pro-democracy organisation.

Hai was not allowed family visits during his five-month detention, Viet Tan reported.

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