Chinese Journalist Wins Press Freedom Award

Chinese journalist Cheng Yizhong. Photo: UNESCO

PARIS—Chinese journalist Cheng Yizhong has been awarded the United Nations 2005 Press Freedom award, nearly a year after being released from prison and barred from reporting in China.

“I continue to be grateful for the caring I received from outside China,” Cheng told RFA’s Cantonese Service from his home in the southern city of Guangzhou, “I hope you understand my situation. Right now I cannot say anything about this—it is not convenient.”

China’s Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the award.

“As editor of Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis Daily), Mr. Cheng, 40, broke new ground in Chinese journalism,” UNESCO said. Cheng was editor of the paper before he was fired for his reporting on controversial issues such as the deadly SARS virus and the death of a suspect in Guangzhou police custody.

Prestigious award

I continue to be grateful for the caring I received from outside China.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura on Thursday announced Mr. Cheng as 2005 laureate for the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

In a statement, Kavi Chongkittavorn, executive editor of the Bangkok based English-language daily The Nation and chair of the jury that awards the prize, said Cheng “represents Chinese journalism at its best; he speaks out for the weak and checks the strong. His courageous outspokenness has contributed to raising public awareness in China.”

The award is named for Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano, who was murdered in 1987 for having denounced the activities of powerful drug barons, according to a UNESCO statement. Candidates are put forward by UN member states along with regional and international organizations that promote freedom of expression.

UNESCO awards the $25,000 prize annually on World Press Freedom Day, May 3. The ceremony will occur in Dakar, Senegal this year.

Jailed without charge

Cheng was jailed by Chinese authorities with two of his Southern Metropolis Daily colleagues, Yu Huafeng and Li Minying. He was released in August 2004 after serving five months. No formal charges were filed against him, but he has been barred from resuming his professional activities.

Original reporting by RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese services. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Online production by the Mandarin, Cantonese and English Web teams.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.