A Chinese citizen journalist, who was arrested in May while reporting from Wuhan on the coronavirus outbreak, was sentenced to four years in jail on Monday, December 28.
37-year-old Zhang Zhan was arrested for 'picking quarrels and provoking trouble' with her video and blog reports from the Wuhan lockdown, The Guardian reported. Last month, she was charged with disseminating false information.
When the coronavirus outbreak was initially reported, Zhan's videos and articles were widely shared on social media, further grabbing the authorities' attention.
The chargesheet released last week by the Police said that Zhang had sent 'false information through text, and social media platforms including Twitter, WeChat and YouTube'. "She also accepted interviews from overseas media Free Radio Asia and Epoch Times and maliciously speculated on Wuhan's COVID-19 epidemic," it stated.
However, Zhang denied the charges stating that all her reports about the outbreak response were based on locals' first-hand accounts. Her video reports exposed the government's realities and questioned the secrecy and censorship of the information regarding the novel coronavirus.
In her reports, Zhan had also accused the authorities of violating fundamental rights of people and called for the release of other citizen journalists who had been arrested for reporting from Wuhan. So far, China has arrested eight virus whistleblowers, over misinformation and criticism of the government's response to the outbreak.
Speaking to the reporters, one of the Zhan's defence lawyers, Ren Quanniu said that she looked devastated when the sentence was announced by the Shanghai Pudong New District People's Court.
Local media reported a heavy police presence outside the courthouse. Foreign diplomats were reportedly among supporters at the scene.