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What it Took to Free China’s Shi Tao

September 18, 2013
Shi Tao (Pic courtesy PEN)

Chinese journalist, poet and dissident Shi Tao, was released on September 7, 15 months before his 10-year prison term was due to expire. One of the pieces of evidence that was instrumental in Shi’s conviction in 2004 was information released by the US-based internet company Yahoo.
Issues of web companies releasing information on content and the identity of users resonates deeply in the United States gripped by the debate on internet surveillance by government spy agencies. While the Yahoo angle is important in the Shi Tao case, a posting on the PEN/America website offers a glimpse of the work international organisations dedicated to releasing political prisoners have to do to reach their goal.
In a post titled ‘Welcome Home,’ Sarah Hoffman who was one month into her job at PEN, remembers the Congressional hearing where Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang  made “a tearful public apology” to the imprisoned journalist’s mother.
“That act alone did not free him, but it, along with years of international pressure from governments, individuals, and organizations, including a concerted and prolonged campaign from PEN centers around the world, certainly helped. Today, 15 months before the end of his sentence, Shi Tao is free,” Hoffman writes.
You can read the post here
Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.