The 37 years old citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan who covered the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was on Monday, December 28 sentenced to four years in prison.
She was sentenced by the Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court.
Recall that Zhang, who was formerly a lawyer had travelled to Wuhan from Shanghai in February and documented the coronavirus outbreak through videos which she posted on social media platforms.
Zhang In the videos was overtly critical of the Chinese government’s response to the outbreak and how it silenced whistle blowers.
She was arrested in May and was convicted of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble,’ a known charge mostly used to prosecute critics of the Chinese government.
Zhang, according to her lawyers, went on a hunger strike starting in June, but she was restrained and forcibly fed through a feeding tube, her lawyers said.
The UN human rights office said it is ‘deeply concerned’ by Zhang’s sentence.
‘We raised her case with the authorities throughout 2020 as an example of the excessive clampdown on freedom of expression linked to #COVID19 & continue to call for her release,’ the office tweeted on Monday.
China’s response has been subject to criticism since the coronavirus outbreak.
On its own part, Beijing had denied accusations that it was secretive about the virus after it first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019.
The World Health Organisation had said that its team of international experts will travel to Wuhan in January to begin an in-depth investigation into the coronavirus’s origins.
Zhang is believed to be the first person to be tried for her coverage of China’s initial outbreak.
At least 3 other citizen journalists were detained for similar activity. Two of those are believed to have been released, but one reportedly remains missing, according to The NY Times.
Source: Now This
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