WHAT YOU CAN DO
Mr. Shi Tao, a newspaper reporter in China, is serving a 10-year jail sentence for "leaking state secrets" because of an e-mail he wrote in April 2004.
(Click on the video link for some iconic images of the events of June 1989)
Mr. Shi Tao described in an e-mail that the Chinese government restricted the way newspapers, radio, television and other news media reported about the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. On 4 June 1989, hundreds of pro-democracy supporters, mostly students, were brutally gunned down by Chinese troops.
He had been put in prison after the American search engine company Yahoo provided information to the Chinese authorities that led to his arrest in November 2004.
Mr. Shi Tao distributed information that had been sent to his newspaper by the Chinese authorities. The information warned journalists of the dangers of "social destabilization" and of risks linked to the return of certain dissidents to China for the 2004 commemoration of the 1989 massacre.
Mr. Shi Tao's information went to many places outside China. Yahoo gave state security authorities details of Mr. Shi Tao's e-mail usage that ultimately allowed them to trace the message to a computer he used at the newspaper where he worked, the Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News).
He is one of dozens of journalists in prison in China, the world's largest jailer of journalists.
Mr. Shi Tao was awarded the 2007 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers.
When asked about Yahoo's involvement at the time of Mr. Shi Tao's arrest, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang defended the company's involvement by saying: "to be doing business in China, or anywhere else in the world, we have to comply with local law."
WAN's comment: "The jailing of Mr. Shi Tao is an outrage. It is also a sad example of a western company aiding and abetting repression in the belief that to refuse would harm its activities in the country. As a major media company that commands the world's attention, Yahoo has an obligation to take the lead in support of freedom of expression on the internet. Yahoo should be sending a message to repressive regimes that they will be left behind if they continue to take information hostage, jail journalists and deprive their citizens of the right to open debate. Quite the reverse happened in this case."
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Let the Chinese government know that you are concerned about this case by sending a postcard of protest to your country's Chinese embassy.
The message, in Chinese, says:
1. Click on the postcard below to download it. That will make up the back side of your postcard.
2. Insert the proper address for the Chinese Embassy in your country.
3. Sign the postcard (your class may want to do this as a project).
4. Carefully paste the piece you have cut out onto a piece of cardboard or a heavier (thicker) piece of paper that is the same size. Be careful to trim all the edges. For example, you can use:
o A photo of your school class
o A drawing about freedom or press freedom on cardboard
o A drawing of Shi Tao
5. Put a first-class stamp where noted.
6. Mail it!
7. Then follow the case on WAN's 3 May Press Freedom Day site
(http://www.worldpressfreedomday.org) and other sites.
To download the file in PDF format, please click on the image.
Lawsuit launched against Yahoo
Mr. Shi Tao joined in a lawsuit against Yahoo, Inc. that also included Wang Xiaoning, another Chinese writer who was imprisoned after the technology company handed over their private account information to Chinese law enforcement authorities. Citing U.S. law that governs violations of international law, the World Organization for Human Rights USA filed the lawsuit against Yahoo, its subsidiary, Yahoo Hong Kong, and its partner Alibaba.com that runs Yahoo China. The lawsuit claims that all three companies aided the Chinese government in convicting dissidents. In addition to unspecified damages, the Washington-based organization hoped that Yahoo would assist in securing the release of any detainees. (Source: WAN-WEF Editors Weblog, 13 June 2007)
"Inexcusably negligent" or "deliberately deceptive"?
A United States Congressional committee that had been investigating the jailing of Shi Tao for nearly two years chastised Yahoo for not giving full details about its role in his arrest. In February 2006, Yahoo claimed in testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that it did not know why Chinese authorities wanted e-mail details for Mr. Shi Tao, which was not the case. At this hearing, Democratic Representative Tom Lantos, chairman of the committee told Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang: "This was no misunderstanding. This was inexcusably negligent behaviour at best, and deliberately deceptive behaviour at worst." He then told Yang to apologize to Mr. Shi Tao's mother, who was also present. (Source: BBC News, 6 November 2007)
Settlement reached in lawsuit against Yahoo
Yahoo agreed to settle the lawsuit brought by the World Organization for Human Rights USA, according to papers filed in a California court, the BBC reported. No details were given of the settlement, but Yahoo will cover legal costs and will also set up a fund to support political dissidents. Wired News reported that a source at Yahoo said the company has been "working with the families .... to provide them with financial, humanitarian and legal assistance." (Sources: BBC News, Wired News, 13 November 2007)
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Video of Shi Tao's mother accepting the WAN Golden Pen of Freedom in her son's place.
(Click on the link to view the video in Chinese. English translation is provided below)