Journalist who documented Wuhan coronavirus outbreak jailed for 4 years

Chinese citizen journalist jailed after accusing officials of Covid cover-up | Financial Times

An independent Chinese journalist who reported from Wuhan at the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak has been jailed for four years by a Shanghai court, her lawyer said Monday.

Zhang Zhan, 37, was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to one of her defense lawyers Zhang Keke, who attended her hearing. The offense is commonly used by the Chinese government to target dissidents and human rights activists.
A former lawyer, Zhang traveled some 400 miles from Shanghai to Wuhan in early February to report on the pandemic and subsequent attempts to contain it, just as the authorities began reining in state-run and private Chinese media.
For more than three months, she documented snippets of life under lockdown in Wuhan and the harsh reality faced by its residents, from overflowing hospitals to empty shops. She posted her observations, photos and videos on Wechat, Twitter and YouTube — the latter two of which are blocked in China.
Her postings came to an abrupt stop in mid-May, and she was later revealed to have been detained by police and brought back to Shanghai.
According to Amnesty International, at one point during her detention Zhang went on hunger strike, during which time she was shackled and force fed, treatment the group said amounted to torture.
Her lawyer Zhang Keke, who visited Zhang earlier this month while she was in detention, described on social media that Zhang had a feeding tube attached to her nose and mouth. He said her hands were tied to prevent her from removing the device, and that she suffered from constant headache and pain in her stomach and throat.
CNN did not immediately receive a response from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on allegations of Zhang’s mistreatment in detention.
Zhang’s lawyer said she attended Monday’s hearing in a wheelchair, as she had become frail during her time in detention.
In her indictment, prosecutors accused her of “publishing large amounts of fake information” and receiving interviews from overseas media outlets, including Radio Free Asia and the Epoch Times, to “maliciously stir up the Wuhan Covid-19 epidemic situation.”
But Zhang’s lawyer said the prosecutors did not display any concrete evidence of the “fake information” Zhang was accused of fabricating during the court proceedings. He added that his client, in a gesture of protest, barely spoke during the trial and refused to plead guilty.
Zhang is the first citizen journalist known to have been sentenced for her role in reporting on the coronavirus pandemic. But it is not her first run in with the authorities.
According to her indictment, she was twice detained for 10 days in 2019 for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” but the document did not specify what had resulted her detention.
In a statement on Twitter Monday, the British Embassy in Beijing said Zhang’s case “raises serious concerns about media freedom in China,” adding that a British diplomat tried to attend her trial but was not allowed access.
The embassy said that Zhang “is one of at least 47 journalists currently in detention in China. The whereabouts of other citizen journalists — including Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin — is unknown.” It urged China to “release all those detained for their reporting.”

About Delia Innoma

Delia Innoma is a prolific writer, promoter, artist manager with full professional proficiency in English, German and Igbo languages. She studied accounting and computer programming at the Institute of Management and Technology Enugu and Germany respectively. Delia is also a devoted mother of two and she founded the Diamond Celebrities Magazine. Her sense of responsibility and commitment to the Christian faith are essential forces driving her daily activities.

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