- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2004

BEIJING (Agence France-Presse) — Social critic Liu Xiaobo, who has been jailed on and off since the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, was recognized Wednesday with an international award as the leading defender of press freedoms in 2004.

The former Beijing University teacher, who was detained and released by authorities last week, was honored by Reporters Without Borders after being selected by an international jury.

“Liu is determined that the Chinese media should become a counterweight to the all-powerful Chinese Communist Party,” the Paris-based press freedom group said.

“He is tirelessly fighting for the universal ideal of press freedom, calling for the release of imprisoned journalists and cyberdissidents, and posting articles on the Internet and in Hong Kong and diaspora newspapers.

“For all this he risks being re-arrested at any moment.”

Mr. Liu spent two years in prison after publicly defending the student-led democracy movement in June 1989. He also was sentenced to three years of re-education through labor in 1996 for questioning the role of the Communist Party.

In May this year, the police cut his Internet connection and his phone line after he wrote an essay criticizing the use of “subversion” charges against journalists and dissidents.

After his detention last week in Beijing, Mr. Liu, 49, was ordered to cease writing any more articles critical of the government and the party.

“I thank them very much for giving me this prize. It is a big encouragement for me,” he told Agence France-Presse.

“When you see the situation of the Chinese media, restriction on freedom of expression, the crackdowns on control of publications, ceaseless harassment and detention of journalists in order to maintain social stability, one can say that the situation is relatively bad.”

Shortlisted for the prize was Cheng Yizhong, who as editor of the daily papers Xin Jing Bao and Nanfang Dushi Bao ran a series of hard-hitting stories about the cover-up of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome last year and the torture death of a student in a police station.

Mr. Cheng was arrested and held in secret for five months this year. Since his release in August, he has been under house arrest and banned from working as a journalist.

Other awards went to Hafnaoui Ghoul of the Algerian daily El Youm for devotion to freedom of information. He was jailed for six months this year for reputed libel after exposing corruption and abuses by local officials.

The Mexican weekly Zeta won the award for “media outlet exemplifying the battle for the right to inform,” after a series of investigative reports that cost the lives of three of its reporters.

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