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Citizen Journalist Who Reported On Wuhan's Covid Outbreak Is Jailed

Citizen Journalist Who Reported On Wuhan's Covid Outbreak Is Jailed

A Chinese citizen journalist who was arrested for criticising the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been jailed for four years.

Zhang Zhan, 37, was found guilty of 'picking quarrels and provoking trouble' which is something activists are regularly charged with.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

The former lawyer was detained back in May and has been on hunger strike for several months with her representatives saying she's in poor health.

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In China there is no free media and it's not uncommon for authorities to clamp down on people seen to be undermining the government's response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Ren Quanniu, one of Ms Zhang's defence lawyers, told news agency AFP: "Zhang Zhan looked devastated when the sentence was announced."

He also explained it's likely they will appeal her four year sentence.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA
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According to the MailOnline, Ms Zhang arrived in Wuhan on 1 February from her home in Shanghai. Once there started posting short video clips on to YouTube.

The footage contained interviews with residents, commentary and footage of a crematorium, train stations, hospitals and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

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Shortly before she was arrested, Ms Zhang said she chose to travel to Wuhan after reading a post from someone living there who described the conditions during the outbreak.

In a clip obtained by the BBC, Ms Zhang said: "Maybe I have a rebellious soul... I'm just documenting the truth.

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"Why can't I show the truth? I won't stop what I'm doing because this country can't go backwards."

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Ms Zhang was formally charged in November with the indictment sheet saying she sent 'false information through text, video and other media through [platforms like] WeChat, Twitter and YouTube'.

The BBC reports she was also accused of accepting interviews with foreign media outlets and 'maliciously spreading' information about the virus in Wuhan. A sentence of four to five years was recommended.

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One of Ms Zhang's other lawyers, Zhang Keke, said that when he visited her in early December she told him she was being force-fed with a feeding tube.

Mr Keke said: "Restrained 24 hours a day, she needs assistance going to the bathroom, and she tosses and turns in her sleep. She feels psychologically exhausted, like every day is a torment."

Leo Lan, a research and advocacy consultant at the Chinese Human Rights Defenders told the BBC: "[Her] sentence is so heavy. The Chinese government is very determined to silence her and intimidate other citizens who tried to expose what happened in Wuhan.

"I'm concerned about the fate of other detained citizens who also reported news about the pandemic."

Featured Image Credit: YouTube

Topics: World News, News, China

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Rebecca Shepherd

I'm Becky - a journalist at LADbible. I graduated with a First Class BA in Journalism before going on to cover criminal court cases, medical tribunals and breaking news for the national media - which inevitably and eventually became as glum as it sounds. Can often be found rocking a bag for life - which I made a 'thing' way before Rihanna. You can contact me at [email protected]