Tibetan magazine editor given four-year jail term

New York, July 6, 2011–The closed-door sentencing of a Tibetan magazine editor jailed without charge for over a year is another disturbing indicator of the lack of due process allowed to ethnic minority journalists in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

A court in Aba prefecture, a predominantly Tibetan area of Sichuan province, sentenced Tashi Rabten, writer and editor of banned Tibetan-language magazine Shar Dungri (Eastern Snow Mountain), to four years in prison on June 2, according to Radio Free Asia and the U.K.-based International Campaign for Tibet. The editor has been held without charge since April 2010, according to CPJ research.

The exact charge was not confirmed. RFA, citing a local source, said Tashi Rabten’s parents had been notified of his trial on separatism charges by letter after it took place. They were denied visitation rights, according to RFA. The International Campaign for Tibet did not confirm the nature of the charge, but said the sentence was in reprisal for reporting. Three freelance contributors to Shar Dungri–Buddha, Jangtse Donkho, and Kalsang Jinpa–were sentenced on separatism charges in December 2010, according to CPJ research. An Aba government employee reached by Reuters told the news agency that he had no knowledge of the sentence.

“Tashi Rabten’s extralegal detention and unannounced trial are reminders of the treatment Tibetan journalists face in China’s legal system,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “The crackdown that Chinese journalists and activists have undergone in recent months in China has long been the norm in ethnic minority regions.”

Anonymous calls on Chinese websites for anti-government protests in China have resulted in the detention or disappearance of activists, bloggers, and writers since February, according to CPJ research

Shar Dungri, a collection of essays, was published in the aftermath of 2008 ethnic unrest in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and Tibetan areas of western China. Authorities in the region harassed and expelled foreign reporters covering the violence, which escalated from demonstrations coinciding with the anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. Information from the region has remained under heavy restrictions since.  

Tashi Rabten’s 2010 detention was one of several targeting ethnic minority journalists in 2009 and 2010, according to CPJ research. Besides Tibet, several journalists were imprisoned from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, which saw its own ethnic clashes in 2009. Uighur website manager Tursunjan Hezim was among a handful tried and sentenced in July 2010 on unknown charges after discussing the unrest online.