Journo gets 10-yr jail for leaking state secrets

Associated Press

Beijing, April 30:

A Chinese journalist was sentenced today to 10 years in prison on charges of leaking state secrets in a case that prompted an outcry by press-freedom advocates. Shi Tao’s sentence was the minimum that his family said he faced after being convicted in March of “illegally providing state secrets to foreigners”. They said the maximum possible penalty was life in prison. Shi worked at a business newspaper and was convicted of leaking the contents of a confidential memo at the paper to a publication abroad, the Xinhua said in the first detailed account of charges against him. It didn’t give any details of the memo or identify the foreign publication. In addition to working as a journalist, Shi also published essays on Internet forums advocating reforms to China’s one-party system.

Shi, 37, was sentenced by a court in the central city of Changsha, where he worked for the newspaper Contemporary Business News, according to Xinhua. His arrest in November prompted appeals for his release by activists including the international writers group PEN.

A series of Chinese journalists have faced similar charges of violating vague security laws as Communist leaders struggle to maintain control of information amid rapid social changes. The government had previously refused to release details of the charges against Shi,

and his family said they had no information. Prosecutors said Shi attended a meeting last April at his newspaper at which a memo was read out “with a special warning saying the contents were classified and should not be spread further,” Xinhua reported. “Shi sent the main contents of the document abroad via e-mail and had it published in an overseas publication. The e-mail was picked up time and again by several overseas Internet portals,” the report said. Shi was arrested at home in Shanxi last November and authorities confiscated his computer, writings and other personal belongings, according to the US-based Independent Chinese PEN Centre, part of PEN.