Citizen journalist facing jail in China for reporting on Wuhan’s COVID-19 outbreak

Citizen journalist facing jail in China for reporting on Wuhan’s COVID-19 outbreak

November 16, 2020

A whistleblowing Chinese citizen journalist who was arrested over her critical reports on the government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak could face up to five years behind bars.

Zhang Zhan, 37, is still being held at a detainment facility in Shangai on charges of spreading false information — six months after her arrest, the Guardian reported.

In indictment papers released Monday, she was accused of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” as well as sending “false information through text, video and other media through the Internet media such as WeChat, Twitter and YouTube.”

“She also accepted interviews from overseas media Free Radio Asia and Epoch Times and maliciously speculated on Wuhan’s Covid-19 epidemic,” alleged prosecutors, who recommended that she be given a four- to five-year prison sentence.

Before her arrest, Zhang had focused her reporting on the number of COVID-19 cases in Wuhan, expressing skepticism of the official figures.

In an interview in mid-April with the Financial Times, Zhang also described how small businesses were failing in the Hubei province, suggesting that unemployment numbers were higher than acknowledged by the government.

Zhang is among several journalists, activists and social media personalities who have been detained this year after traveling to Wuhan to report on the health crisis.

Citizen journalist Chen Qiushi was detained in January, while another reporter, Li Zehua, went missing in early February but was released in April, the Guardian reported.

Another journalist, Fang Bin, also went missing around that time and has not been seen since.

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