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Chinese reporter who has reported an outbreak of Wuhan coronavirus imprisoned for 4 years

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Chinese reporter who has reported an outbreak of Wuhan coronavirus imprisoned for 4 years
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An independent Chinese journalist who reported from Wuhan at the height of the initial outbreak of coronavirus has been jailed by a Shanghai court for four years, her lawyer said Monday.

According to one of her defense lawyers, Zhang Keke, who attended her hearing, Zhang Zhan, 37, was found guilty of ‘picking quarrels and causing trouble.’ The offense is widely used to target protesters and human rights activists by the Chinese government.

In early February, Zhang, a former prosecutor, traveled some 400 miles from Shanghai to Wuhan to report on the pandemic and subsequent efforts to contain it, just as the authorities started to rein in Chinese state-run and private media.

She recorded snippets of life under lockdown in Wuhan for more than three months and the harsh reality faced by its people, from overflowing hospitals to empty shops. She posted on Wechat, Twitter, and YouTube her thoughts, pictures, and videos—the latter two of which are blocked in China.

In mid-May, her postings came to an abrupt end, and she was later reported to have been arrested by police and taken back to Shanghai. According to Amnesty International, Zhang went on a hunger strike at one point during her detention, during which time she was shackled and force-fed, a treatment which the organization claimed amounted to torture.

On social media, her lawyer, Zhang Keke, who visited Zhang earlier this month when she was in custody, said that Zhang had a feeding tube attached to her nose and mouth. He said that her hands were bound to prevent her from removing the unit and that her stomach and throat were suffering from constant headaches and pain.

CNN did not immediately receive a reply from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China to allegations of mistreatment of Zhang in detention.

Zhang’s lawyer said she attended the wheelchair hearing on Monday because, during her time in jail, she had become frail.

In her indictment, prosecutors accused her of “publishing large amounts of fake information” and obtaining interviews to “maliciously stir up the Wuhan Covid-19 epidemic situation.” from overseas media outlets, including Radio Free Asia and the Epoch Times.

However, Zhang’s lawyer argued that the prosecutors did not show any clear evidence of the “fake information” that Zhang was accused of during the court proceedings fabricating. He added that during the trial, his client, in a show of protest, scarcely spoke and declined to plead guilty.

Zhang is the first citizen journalist known to be prosecuted for her role in reporting on the pandemic of the coronavirus. This is not her first run with the authorities, however.

According to her indictment, in 2019, she was detained twice for 10 days for’ picking up quarrels and causing trouble,’ but the document did not explain what resulted in her detention.

One of the many ones

Zhang is one of several independent reporters who have been detained or disappeared in China since the beginning of the pandemic, as the authorities clamped down on virus coverage and media outlets went overdrive, presenting the response from Beijing as powerful and timely.

Chen Qiushi, who had live-streamed videos from Wuhan during the city’s lockdown and shared social media reports, vanished in February. He was confirmed to be under “state supervision.” in September. Two other independent journalists, Li Zehua and Fang Bin were also detained following their Wuhan outbreak coverage.

In a report earlier this year, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Hong Kong-based organization, said in a report earlier this year, “Under the guise of fighting the novel coronavirus, authorities in China have escalated suppression online by blocking independent reporting, information sharing, and critical comments on government responses,”

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), China is the world’s largest jailer of journalists, and tightly monitors the press at home while blocking most international media outlets through the Great Firewall, its extensive internet censorship and surveillance apparatus.

In an unprecedented move toward the international press, in March, China expelled journalists from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Beijing said the move — which came in the midst of a surge of critical reporting on China’s initial coronavirus response — was a response to Washington’s recent restrictions on how Chinese state media work in the US.

Although occasional outbreaks have occurred with lockdowns and quarantines and have been quickly contained, China has largely controlled the virus, enabling the country to return to relative normality.

However, press restrictions have not been removed, and Chinese state media have begun to actively promote an alternate origin story for the pandemic, with reports that before the initial outbreak in Wuhan, the coronavirus might have been circulating outside the region.

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