Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of another independent reporter in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
The latest victim is Xiang Nanfu, a regular contributor to the New York-based news website Boxun. The official news agency Xinhua reported yesterday that he has been held since 3 May on charges of supplying “fabricated information” that “seriously harmed” China’s image.
“We demand Xiang’s immediate release and reject the baseless charges against him and his news media,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.
“His arrest, which follows that of the journalist Gao Yu, shows that the authorities are taking a harder line and are reinforcing repressive measures and censorship in the run-up to the commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre.”
Xinhua quoted the police as saying that Xiang, 62, had been transmitting false information to Boxun since 2009, especially about land confiscation and police violence, and had been paid large sums of money by the site. Launched in 2000, Boxun often carries reports on sensitive subjects and is therefore censored in China.
According to Xinhua, Xiang has confessed to his crimes. His confession was filmed and broadcast on television, a procedure already used with Gao Yu on 8 May and with the Xinkuaibao journalist Chen Yongzhou last November.
The police said Xiang could be charged with “disturbing public order,” which is punishable by a fine or a sentence of up to five years in prison.
China is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.