The international press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders says the Internet company Yahoo provided the Chinese authorities with information that helped convict a Chinese journalist of espionage charges.
The statement came from the Paris headquarters of Reporters Without Borders. It quotes Chinese court documents as saying Yahoo provided the authorities with information used to convict journalist Shi Tao of leaking state secrets to foreigners. He received a ten-year sentence.
Mr. Shi worked for Contemporary Business News, a business magazine based in China's Hunan Province.
His crime, according to the authorities, is that he provided details of the Chinese government's new restrictions on journalists to a foreigner.
Reporters Without Borders says court papers show Yahoo told police the date, time, and location from which the message had been sent, and to which recipient.
Julien Pain, head of the Internet Freedom desk at Reporters Without Borders, says his group is not accusing Yahoo of doing anything illegal. But he says foreign companies working in the business of information should resist providing information that might interfere with basic human rights.
"We are asking Yahoo to take a really strong position on that and to say, 'We have, as an American company, to respect certain basic values, universal values, human rights. And we believe that you're going too far, so that even if it's legal in your country, we, as an American company, we won't do it,'" he said.
Internet service providers in China, as in many Western countries, routinely cooperate with law enforcement agencies on criminal investigations.
China, however, often uses the term "state secrets" to restrict the flow of information that would routinely be made public in other countries. Many journalists have been detained or jailed for allegedly releasing information that makes the Chinese authorities uncomfortable.
It was not clear whether Yahoo officials knew what the investigation into journalist Shi Tao was about or what charges authorities had sought to bring against him when it passed on the information.
Numerous calls by journalists to the headquarters of Yahoo, Incorporated, in the U.S. state of California went unanswered Wednesday.
This is not the first time that a foreign Internet company has come under fire from press freedom advocates for complying with the Communist authorities' restrictions on the flow of information.
Earlier this year, advocates criticized the American search engine company, Google, for agreeing to block Chinese users' access to sites that discuss democracy and other subjects restricted by the Chinese government.