After a mere three-hour trial, lawyer-turned-journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, was sentenced on 28th December to four years in prison by a Shanghai court on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for reporting live from the city of Wuhan during the Covid-19 outbreak in February. Zhang Zhan was arrested in May and has since been protesting by going on a hunger strike for which she has been force-fed through a nasal tube.
“Zhang Zhan was only serving the public interest by reporting on the Covid-19 outbreak and should never have been detained, not to mention receive a four-year prison sentence”, says Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia Bureau head, who calls on the international community “to increase pressure on the Beijing regime so that they immediately release Zhang and all other detained journalists.”
Since the Covid-19 outbreak in February, the Chinese regime has increased efforts to censor the press and social media. At least nine Chinese journalists or press freedom defenders have been arrested for their coverage of Covid-19 related issues, seven of which are still detained.
China ranks 177th out of 180 in the 2020 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the biggest prison in the world for journalists, with at least 120 detained or missing according to the most recent count made by RSF.