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China jails journalist for reports on Wuhan during coronavirus outbreak

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China has jailed a citizen journalist who had covered the coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan.

Zhang Zhan, 37, was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a common charge against activists, and has been sentenced to four years in jail.

Zhang is one of a number of civilian journalists who have come into trouble for reporting on Wuhan.

The former lawyer was detained in May and has been on a hunger strike since June 2020 in protest of her arrest.

Chinese authorities are known to be clamping down on activists and whistleblowers who are viewed to be undermining the government’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus cases began to be reported in Wuhan in December 2019 and reportedly reported as early ad November 2019. However, Chinese authorities did not inform the public of the virus, which is highly contagious between human to human until reportedly late January.

One of Ms Zhang’s lawyers said she was very weak and currently on a hunger strike, and that he was concerned for her physical and mental wellbeing.

Zhang had traveled to Wuhan in February 2020 after reading online posts about life in the city during the Coronavirus outbreak.

She started to document what she witnessed in the streets and in hospitals and despite threats from authorities, her reporting was shared widely across social media.

According to the BBC, the rights group Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders said her reports also covered the detention of other independent journalists and the harassment of families of victims seeking accountability.

Ms Zhang was charged in early November with the indictment sheet alleging she sent “false information through text, video and other media through [platforms like] WeChat, Twitter and Youtube.”

She is also accused of accepting foreign media interviews and spreading “malicious information” about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

Zhang had been detained in 2019 having voiced her support for the activists activities in Hong Kong.

Several other citizen journalists who reported from Wuhan have gone missing throughout the year.

Two of these journalists have since resurfaced however the whereabouts of one remains unknown.

Feature Image: – Chinese Human Rights Defenders/ The Guardian

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