RSF calls for pressure on China to restore full freedom to Covid-19 journalist Zhang Zhan after four years of imprisonment

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the international community to step up the pressure on Beijing to restore full freedom of journalist Zhang Zhan, detained since 2020 for covering the Covid-19 epidemic in China, and whose four-year prison sentence is due to be served next month.

In one month's time, on 13 May 2024, Chinese journalist and RSF press freedom laureate Zhang Zhan, 40, is supposed to regain her freedom. The journalist and former lawyer was arrested in May 2020, while covering the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic in Wuhan, in central-eastern China. She had posted more than a hundred videos on social media before being arrested on 14 May 2020. Seven months later, she was sentenced to four years in prison by a Shanghai court for allegedly "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

Even though she will have served her sentence, there are doubts regarding the Chinese regime's willingness to give her back her freedom: in China, journalists detained for their work often remain under surveillance even after being released and are generally banned from travelling abroad.

"Zhang Zhan courageously risked her life to inform her fellow citizens about the Covid-19 epidemic in Wuhan. She should never have been arrested, let alone sentenced to a prison term. We call on the international community to step up pressure on the Chinese regime to restore her complete freedom and that of all other detained journalists and press freedom defenders.

Cédric Alviani
RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director

On several occasions, RSF has called for her release and warned about the ill-treatment that she has been subjected to while in prison. During her first months in detention, she almost died after going on hunger strike to claim her innocence. The authorities forcibly fed her through a nasal tube and left her handcuffed for entire days. 

The Chinese regime has been conducting a veritable war against journalism since leader Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. China, the world's biggest prison for journalists and press freedom defenders with at least 119 detainees, is ranked 179th out of 180 countries in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index.

172/ 180
Score : 23.36
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