Washington, D.C. (May 8, 2014) — The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) is gravely concerned over the arrest of 1995 Courage in Journalism Award Winner, Chinese journalist Gao Yu.
Gao’s whereabouts had been unknown until May 8 when the Chinese official state news agency Xinhua reported her April 24 arrest. She is accused of ‘leaking state secrets’ to a foreign website in August last year. The arrest appears to be politically motivated as the Chinese government has begun rounding up outspoken activists and dissidents just weeks ahead of the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.
“The latest attempt by the Chinese government to silence Gao Yu highlights the extent of media oppression in China,” said Elisa Lees Muñoz, Executive Director of the IWMF. “We call on the Chinese authorities to drop the charges against Gao, release her from prison, and respect the principles of press freedom.”
Ending speculation over Gao’s whereabouts two weeks after she disappeared, Chinese state television CCTV today aired what appears to be Gao’s confession to have leaked secret documents. Commenting on the confession, her friend and human rights lawyer Teng Biao told the Committee to Protect Journalists today that “she must have faced very severe pressure during detention”.
Gao is an internationally renowned journalist. She began her career as a journalist with China News Service. She joined the progressive Economics Weekly as deputy editor-in-chief shortly before the Tiananmen Square democracy movement of 1989. In 1993, Gao was sentenced to six years in prison for leaking state secrets through – ironically – a pro-Chinese government newspaper in Hong Kong. Since her release in 1999, she has worked as a freelance journalist and political analyst.
Gao was the first recipient of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, created in 1997.
Founded in 1990 by a group of prominent U.S. women journalists, the International Women’s Media Foundation is a Washington-based organization that is dedicated to strengthening the role of women journalists worldwide. The IWMF believes the news media worldwide are not truly free and representative without the equal voice of women. The IWMF celebrates the courage of women journalists who overcome threats and oppression to speak out on global issues. The IWMF’s programs empower women journalists with the training, support and network to become leaders in the news industry.