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Coronavirus: Chinese journalist faces jail term for Wuhan reporting

Chinese citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan faces 5 years jail term for reporting the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak
Emeh Joy

A Chinese citizen journalist who covered the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China is reportedly facing up to five years in jail.

37-year-old Zhang Zhan, who is a former lawyer, has been in detention since she was arrested in May. Zhan was accused of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" a charge typically used on activists in China, BBC reported.

This wouldn't be the first time a Chinese citizen journalist would be running into trouble for reporting on the virus outbreak in Wuhan which occurred beginning of the year.

At least three journalists who reported on the outbreak disappeared in February. It was later discovered that one of them, Chen Qiushi, had been placed under government supervision.

A second journalist, Li Zehua later appeared in April saying he had been under 'quarantine'. The whereabouts of the third journalist Fang Bin is yet to be known.

Several reports have it that the Chinese authorities have been clamping down on activists who speak out.

According to an indictment sheet which surfaced recently, Ms Zhang reported several stories on the Wuhan outbreak in February.

According to NGO the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), her reports also covered the detention of other independent journalists and the harassment of families of victims who were seeking accountability.

However, on 14 May, she reportedly went missing from Wuhan. The following day, it was reported that the police had detained her in Shanghai (more than 400 miles away).

On June 19, she was arrested formally in Shanghai and almost three months later (9 September) her lawyer was granted a meeting with her.

Ms Zhang was reported to have gone on a hunger strike to protest her arrest. Her lawyer received a call on 18 September saying she has been indicted. She was charged formally last Friday.

According to the indictment sheet which surfaced on Monday, it alleges that Ms Zhang sent "false information through text, video and other media through platforms like Twitter, WeChat, YouTube".

She was also accused of accepting interviews with foreign media outlets and "maliciously spreading" information about the virus in Wuhan.

A four to five years jail sentence was recommended for her.

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