Chinese journalist Zhang Zhan was sentenced to four years of prison for reporting on the coronavirus pandemic in defiance of official government propaganda. Journalists and Western nations have condemned the sentence.
A Chinese journalist who was one of the first to cover the outbreak of coronavirus in the Communist nation was sentenced to four years in prison on Monday.
- Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, was sentenced for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after reporting “a more dire picture of the pandemic epicenter than the official [government] narrative” according to Reuters.
- NBC News reported several other Chinese journalists have been silenced, “forcibly quarantined”, or gone missing since the pandemic began.
- Zhang, who suddenly stopped reporting in May before the Chinese government confirmed she was detained, protested her arrest and proclaimed her innocence by conducting a hunger strike while in prison, resulting in her being force-fed by guards.
- The UPI reported earlier this month Zhang has experienced torture as part of her treatment in prison.
- After Monday’s sentencing, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council voiced support for Zhang and called for her release.
- Despite finishing up negotiations with China on an economic agreement seven years in the making, the European Union issued a statement urging China to reverse itself and release Zhang Zhan and human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng.
- CNN reported on the charges against Zhang, “publishing large amounts of fake information”, and emphasized her lawyer’s assertion that authorities did not provide any evidence of false statements.
- The New York Times hailed Zhang as “fiercely critical of the government” and having “directly challenged” state media propaganda.
- In Editorial Board column, the Washington Post argues that despite its September declaration that they have been “open and transparent every step of the way”, the Chinese government detaining journalists tells a different story.
- The Wall Street Journal characterizes the charges against Zhang as intentionally vague as a means to “prosecute activists and dissidents” in Communist China.
- Fox News framed its reporting to highlight President Trump’s condemnations of China for covering up the virus in its first months, which he and others argue led to the global spread of the virus.
- National Review reported on the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul’s statement after the sentencing, saying “The Chinese Communist Party is directly responsible” for the global outbreak and Zhang “should be celebrated.”
- Breitbart detailed Zhang’s weakened physical state in court while outlining her harsh treatment in prison and reporting another outlet’s account of Chinese police preventing supporters of Zhang from observing the trial.
© Dallas Gerber, 2020