A Chinese journalist Zhang Zhan was sentenced to four years in prison for her reporting on the Wuhan virus that she did before a year. Zhan was jailed by the Shanghai court for allegedly “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” during her reporting in the chaotic initial stages of the outbreak. Her reporting about the unknown virus had received the attention of the world and hence she was a target of the Chinese administration from the very beginning. China had so far punished 8 whistleblowers that let the world know about the COVID-19 pandemic.
China is boasting about its speedy recovery from the pandemic and revival of its economy but other countries have passed through painful lockdown and freefall of their economies. Controlling the information flow during an unprecedented global health crisis has been pivotal in allowing China’s communist authorities to reframe the narrative in their favour, with President Xi Jinping being garlanded for his leadership by the country’s ruling party.
The court said Zhang Zhan had spread “false remarks” online, according to one of her lawyers, Zhang Keke, but the prosecution did not fully divulge its evidence in court. “We had no way of understanding what exactly Zhang Zhan was accused of doing,” he added, describing it as “a speedy, rushed hearing.” In return, the defendant “didn’t respond” to questions. “She refused to answer when the judge asked her to confirm her identity.”
The British embassy in Beijing said “Zhang Zhan’s case raises serious concerns about media freedom in China,” and also urged China “to release all those detained for their reporting.” Authorities “want to use her case as an example to scare off other dissidents from raising questions about the pandemic situation in Wuhan earlier this year,” added Leo Lan, research and advocacy consultant at the NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
(With inputs from the Asian times)