Gheyret Niyaz

Charge: Endangering State Security        
Sentence: 15 years imprisonment
Location: Xinjiang No. 3 Prison

Work:

Gheyret Niyaz was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for endangering state security on July 23, 2010. Prior to his arrest and detention in October 2009, Niyaz worked as a senior reporter for the Xinjiang Economic Daily and as an administrator for Uighurbiz. The website, founded by Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti, was created as a multi-lingual forum for news and dialogue between Uyghurs, Han and other ethnicities on Uyghur social issues. 

Niyaz had publicly criticized official economic policies and bilingual education, although he was widely viewed as holding many pro-government views. Niyaz was reportedly sentenced following a one-day trial in Urumchi, which only one family member, his wife, Risalet, was allowed to attend. Risalet was quoted in media reports as saying that Niyaz insisted in court that he had broken no laws, and that he said he had acted in good conscience as a citizen and a journalist. Risalet stated that during Niyaz’s trial, prosecutors presented essays Niyaz had written and used interviews he gave to foreign media in the wake of July 2009 unrest in Urumchi as evidence that he was guilty of endangering state security.

Issue (freedom of the press):

Since the unrest of July 5, 2009, Chinese officials have silenced Uyghur voices and have actively sought to suppress information that contradicts the official narrative on the events. Besides a 10-month communications blackout, harsh punishment for Uyghur webmasters and journalists aided official efforts to manage and control information emerging from the region on the unrest.

In reports from the leading press freedom and freedom of expression monitors, China’s record on censorship and harassment of journalists has been unequivocally condemned. China ranks 176th worst for press freedom out of 180 states in Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index. Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties across the globe published in 2015 placed China in the “not free” category. In its 2014 prison census, CPJ documented 44 journalists imprisoned in China (of them 17 are Uyghur) out of a global total of 221. The second highest number is in Eritrea with 23 individuals.

Read UHRP’s report on suppression of Uyghur freedom of expression: Trapped in a Virtual Cage: Chinese State Repression of Uyghurs Online.

Get involved:

Sign UHRP’s petition to release all 8 prisoners in this campaign
PEN Appeal: Gheyret Niyaz, Dilshat Perhat, Nureli, and Nijat Azat (PEN America: August 11, 2010)
Urgent Action Journalist Sentenced To 15 Years In Prison (Amnesty International: July 27, 2010)

Read/listen/watch on:

China sentences Uighur writer to 15 years in jail (AP: July 23, 2010)
China Faces Criticism for Sentence of Journalist (The New York Times: July 24, 2010)
Fate of Uyghur Journalist ‘Unknown’ (Radio Free Asia: November 1, 2010)
A Public Letter by Chinese Citizens Urging the Release of Uyghur Journalist Hailaite Niyazi (China Human Rights Defenders: July 30, 2010)
Journalist’s Sentencing Signals Continued Suppression of Uighurs (Freedom House: July 26, 2010)
Gheyret Niyaz: Sentenced in July 2010 to 15 years of prison for “Endangering State Security (ESS)”(World Uyghur Congress: August 2011)

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