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Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom calls for Chinese authorities to release CGTN anchor, Cheng Lei

The Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom (AJF) promotes press freedom and the right of journalists to report the news in freedom and safety. It also campaigns in the Asia–Pacific region, wherever journalists are censored, threatened, imprisoned or killed. This is their statement on the detention of Australian CGTN anchor, Cheng Lei.

The Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom calls for Chinese authorities to provide due process to Australian TV journalist Cheng Lei, and release her immediately pending any judicial proceedings, in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which China has signed). It also calls on the authorities in China to ensure that any judicial proceedings follow due process.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed that her department had been told, on August 14, of Ms Cheng’s detention in Beijing. According to the ABC, she is being held under what is known as “residential surveillance at a designated location”. In effect, she has been imprisoned without charge and under Chinese law, could remain there for up to six months without access to lawyers or her family.

AJF spokesman Peter Greste said, “We are deeply troubled by Cheng Lei’s unjustified detention. Nothing in her life suggests she is a spy, a terrorist or a criminal of any sort. In the absence of evidence, the only conclusion we can come to is that she is being used as a hostage in a wider diplomatic spat between Australia and China, or perhaps because of some critical comments she may have made. Either way, it is simply unacceptable.

“Her detention without charge sends a very clear message to the rest of the world and the media community in particular – that China has little respect for the role of journalists in public debate and seems willing to use high profile figures for political and diplomatic leverage.”

Cheng was born in China but grew up in Australia and studied at the University of Queensland. For the past eight years, she has worked as an on-air anchor and reporter for the English-language TV news service, CGTN. Since her detention, her profile has disappeared from the network’s website and her videos have been taken down.

In a video released by the Australian Global Alumni, an international relations initiative by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Cheng said, “the beauty of an Australian education is more about what it doesn’t teach. It doesn’t teach you to just follow orders. It allows you that freedom to think for yourself, to question even textbooks, even professors, to judge for yourself, which is critical in journalism.”

The AJF believes that a free, vibrant media benefits everyone apart from those with things to hide, and is fundamental to any functioning society regardless of its political system. The AJF campaigns for legislative reform and the freedom of journalists across the Asia-Pacific region.

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