Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU) condemns the repression campaign against Uyghur journalists. An unprecedented wave of arrests of journalists and political commentators in China has taken place since President Xi Jinping took power, ending a decade of experiments with pluralism and debate in Chinese media. A total of 124 journalists are being held in China under conditions that threaten their lives. More than half of all journalists currently imprisoned are from East Turkistan.
China has arrested hundreds of Uyghur intellectuals since 2014, and many have been journalists, as part of a repression campaign launched officially “against terrorism” pretext in East Turkistan. 72 Uyghur journalists, both professional and non-professional, make up more than half of the 124 detainees in China, with 1.4 billion population while Uyghurs’ official population 11-12 million. East Turkistan has been excluded from media coverage in recent years by China, which has led to an information blackout in the region, resulting in most independent reporting coming from outside the region. Foreign journalists who are permitted to travel to East Turkistan remain under close surveillance and are not allowed to travel freely. If they displease Beijing with their reporting, they are prohibited from entering China.
The Chinese regime is also targeting Uyghur journalists outside of its borders. Idris Hasan, a co-founder of “Shebnem”, a publication intended to help Uyghurs integrate into Turkish society, is facing extradition to China from Morocco despite the cancellation by Interpol on 2nd August 2021 of the “red notice” under which he was originally arrested.
Some prominent names include;
- Ilham Tohti, a scholar and founder of information website Uyghur Online, is serving a life sentence for “separatism” since 2014 for criticising the government. He has been kept in a detention facility in Urumqi.
- Gulmira Imin, former administrator of the Uyghur language information website Salkin, was sentenced to life in prison in 2010 for “separatism” and “disclosing state secrets” because she criticised the government. She is currently detained in “Xinjiang Women’s Prison” (Xinjiang No. 2 Prison) located in Urumqi.
- Niyaz Kahar, a journalist who disappeared during ethnic rioting in Urumqi in July 2009. He has been convicted of publishing illegal news and propagating ideas of ethnic separatism on his website Golden Tarim, and was being held in 5 Shikho prison in the far north of East Turkistan.
- Erkin Tursun, a TV producer who has been detained since 2018, is now serving a 20-year prison sentence on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred, ethnic discrimination and covering up crimes”.
- Qurban Mamut. The former editor-in-chief of the popular Uyghur journal “Xinjiang Civilization,” who went missing in November 2017. In 2020, he was confirmed to have been sentenced to 15 years in prison for “political crimes”.
- “Xinjiang Daily” journalists. In 2018, police arrested Ilham Weli, “Xinjiang Daily‘s” deputy editor-in-chief, Memtimin Obul and Juret Haji, directors at the newspaper, and Mirkamil Ablimit, the head of the newspaper’s subsidiary “Xinjiang Farmer’s Daily,” on the accusation of publishing “two-faced” articles in the Uyghur language section of the newspaper, and they are now likely to be detained in Urumqi.
Executive Director Rushan Abbas said today “I demand the release of all journalists detained in connection with their reporting.China must stop abducting, detaining, torturing, and harassing journalists and press freedom defenders for freely reporting news and information. I also reiterate my call for Michelle Bachelet to release without further delay the report on grave ongoing human rights violations by Chinese authorities targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in East Turkistan, and to defend the rights of the press, which already exists, at least on paper, within the PRC’s constitution.”
CFU calls on fellow media organizations and journalists to stand by their Uyghur counterparts to immediately release all Uyghur journalists and demand the Chinese regime to start respecting press freedom and the right to information both domestically and internationally. CFU also demands the Chinese authorities to stop harassing journalists, media outlets, academics based abroad, and publishers in East Turkistan. We insist the Chinese authorities end the system of online censorship and surveillance of journalists. Finally, we call out the Chinese authorities to stop impeding the work of foreign reporters in China and defend the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal.