An independent Chinese journalist who reported from Wuhan at the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak has been jailed for four years by a Shanghai court, her lawyer said Monday.
A former lawyer, Zhang Zhan traveled to the central Chinese city in February to report on the pandemic and subsequent attempts to contain it, just as the authorities began reining in state-run and private Chinese media.
Zhang is one of a number of independent reporters who have been detained or disappeared in China since the beginning of the pandemic, as the authorities clamped down on coverage of the virus and propaganda outlets went into overdrive portraying Beijing’s response as effective and timely.
In September, he was reported to be under “state supervision. ” Two other independent journalists — Li Zehua and Fang Bin — were also detained following their coverage of the Wuhan outbreak.
“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,” Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Hong Kong-based group, said in a report earlier this year.
Beijing said the move — which came amid a wave of critical reporting about China’s initial response to the coronavirus — was a response for recent restrictions by Washington on how Chinese state media operates in the US.
Restrictions on the press, however, have not lifted, and Chinese state media has begun aggressively pushing an alternative origin story for the pandemic, with claims the coronavirus may have been circulating outside of the country prior to the initial outbreak in Wuhan. – CNN