Memetjan Abdulla, former editor of the state-run China National Radio’s Uighur Service, was sentenced to life in prison in 2009.
In the run-up to World Press Freedom Day earlier this month, the U.S. State Department highlighted the plight of several journalists who are being punished by their governments for reporting on events and issues of importance to their communities. One of those is Memetjan Abdulla, former editor of the state-run China National Radio’s Uighur Service.
At a press briefing on April 24th, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell spoke of Mr. Abdulla:
“He was detained in July 2009 for allegedly instigating ethnic rioting in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region via posts on the Uighur-language website Salkin. On April 1st, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The exact charges against Abdullah were not disclosed, but Radio Free Asia reported on the sentence and cited a witness at the trial that stated that Abdullah was targeted for talking to international journalists in Beijing about the riots as well as translating articles on the website.”
Approximately two hundred people were reported killed in the 2009 rioting that broke out in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the XUAR, between ethnic Uighur protestors and Han Chinese.
The most recent State Department report on human rights in China cites “severe official repression of freedoms of speech, religion, association, and harsh restrictions on the movement of ethnic Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
The State Department notes that in December 2012, “The Prison Census of the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that of the 32 known journalists imprisoned in the country. . .seven were ethnic Uighur.” The report also said that during the year, “authorities continued to implement repressive policies in the XUAR and targeted the region’s ethnic Uighur population.”
Reaffirming the United States’ commitment to promoting and protecting press freedom, Mr. Ventrell called on the Chinese government “to release Memetjan Abdulla and all other journalists imprisoned for their work.”