Ronan L Tynan
Today is World Press Freedom Day and after filming an interview about 71 year old veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu with her friend Shao Jiang, a human rights defender and Beijing Student Leader in 1989, we have no doubt this remarkable woman must rank as one of the most courageous journalists of our time. Sentenced to a third terms in prison, this time for seven years, for her outstanding persistence as a journalist in seeking to report in the public’s interest on the authoritarian Chinese government, there can be no doubt she worked to the highest standards and paid a very high price for her professionalism and dedication.
However, President Xi Jinping in seeking to silence her has reminded the world that his government poses a threat to press freedom everywhere, because if he is allowed to lock up one of the China’s best journalists, and also a grandmother and in very poor health, we allow him to normalise the idea that journalists are expendable, that our first line of defense in defending our human and civil rights can be swept aside with impunity. In defense of journalists everywhere, and not just in China, we must secure the release of Gao Yu because if we fail to do so we put our own liberty at risk, especially the way our own governments are falling over themselves to secure trade deals with China.
As filmmakers and journalists we decided to make this documentary to get that message across, that Gao Yu’s fight for freedom is our fight as well. If our governments fail to make her freedom as a journalist an absolute priority we allow them to begin to see our journalists and our freedom of expression as less than the urgent and absolute rights they must always be seen.
In this brief post I also wanted to underline the urgency of securing Gao Yu release because she is in very bad health, and as Shao Jiang emphasised to us today, she will not get adequate health care in her Chinese prison. He cited the well known recent case of the human rights lawyer and ‘citizen journalist’ Cao Shunli who died because she did not get the health care she needed when imprisoned by the Chinese government for her very courageous human rights work. Indeed, one report was quite unequivocal in outlining her mistreatment noting that “signs of her mistreatment during approximately five and half months in detention” were apparent on her body.
One way you can help is by getting on to your local public representative and ask her or him to urgently make contact with the Chinese Ambassador to demand the release of Gao Yu. Or better still perhaps contacting Amnesty International or similar organisation to help organise a public event to draw attention to her plight and embarrass the Chinese government over their incredible inhumanity in locking up one of their bravest and most distinguished journalists.
Ronan L Tynan