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Chinese Journalist Imprisoned for Covid Reporting in Wuhan to Be Freed

Photo : Reuters

Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, known for her courageous reporting on the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, is on the brink of being released after serving a four-year prison sentence, as reported by The Independent. Ms. Zhan, a former lawyer who transitioned into an independent journalist, embarked on a journey to Wuhan in February 2020, aiming to document the Chinese government's response to the rapidly unfolding crisis.

Her reports, disseminated through platforms like YouTube, WeChat, and the now-banned X (formerly Twitter), provided invaluable insights into the government's efforts to control information and suppress criticism regarding its handling of the pandemic.

"After 4 years in prison for her independent reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic, journalist Zhang Zhan is due for release on 13 May," shared Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on X.

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Concerns have been raised globally regarding China's transparency and handling of information during the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. Some experts believe that the lack of transparency may have contributed to delays in the international response to the emerging pandemic.

Zhang Zhan was detained in May 2020 and subsequently sentenced to four years in prison on charges of 'picking quarrels and provoking trouble.' She has been incarcerated at the Shanghai Women's Prison since then.

In a video posted in February 2020, Ms. Zhang poignantly described Wuhan as "paralyzed because everything is undercover." She lamented the restrictions imposed in the name of pandemic prevention, emphasizing the importance of truth in navigating through such crises.

Zhang Zhan's online reports, including a harrowing video depicting an overwhelmed hospital in Wuhan during the early stages of the pandemic, offered a critical glimpse into the severity of the crisis when reliable information was scarce.

Throughout her imprisonment, Zhang Zhan's health deteriorated significantly. She embarked on a lengthy hunger strike, prompting prison authorities to resort to forced feeding. Reports from her lawyer indicated her frail condition, necessitating the use of a feeding tube. International human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have condemned her imprisonment as unjust and called for her immediate release.

May 14, 2024 5 p.m. 6085

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