Zhang ZhanThe 37-year-old was convicted of “inciting controversy and stirring up trouble,” according to one of her defense attorneys, Zhang Keiki, who attended the hearing. The crime is often used by the Chinese government to target dissidents and human rights activists.
Zhang, a former lawyer, traveled to the central Chinese city in early February to report the epidemic and subsequent attempts to contain it, just as the authorities began to rein in the Chinese state-run and private media.
For more than three months, I documented excerpts from life under lockdown in Wuhan and the harsh reality that its residents face, from Hospitals are overflowing to me Empty shops. She posted her notes, photos, and videos on Wechat, Twitter And the YouTube The last two of them are banned in China.
Her posts abruptly stopped in mid-May, and it was later revealed that police had detained her and taken back to Shanghai, a city more than 640 kilometers (400 miles) from where she lives.
In which Indictment, Prosecutors accused her of “spreading large amounts of fake information” and receiving interviews from foreign media, including Radio Free Asia and Epoch Times, in order to “maliciously inflame the Wuhan COVID-19 epidemic situation.”
Zhang is the first female citizen journalist who has been sentenced for her role in reporting the coronavirus pandemic. But it is not the first time it has entered into with the authorities.
According to the indictment, she was detained twice for 10 days in 2019 for “picking out differences and stirring up trouble,” but the document did not specify the reason for her detention.
Zhang is one of a number of independent reporters who have been detained or disappeared in China since the beginning of the epidemic, as the authorities have clamped down on coverage of the virus and propaganda outlets have gone to exaggerate the portrayal of Beijing’s response as effective and timely.
“Under the guise of fighting the new Coronavirus, the authorities in China have stepped up their online crackdown by blocking independent reporting, information sharing, and critical comments on government responses,” Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a group based in Hong Kong, He said in a report earlier this year.
China is the world’s largest prisoner of journalists. According to Reporters Without BordersHe tightly controls the press at home while blocking most of the foreign media via Great Firewall, an extensive internet censorship and censorship apparatus.
However, restrictions on the press have not been lifted, and Chinese state media have begun to aggressively promote an alternative origin story of the epidemic, with allegations that the coronavirus may have been spreading outside the country before the initial outbreak in Wuhan.