China sentences citizen journalist who reported on COVID-19 in Wuhan to 4 years in prison

A supporter holds a picture of Zhang Zhan.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist who went to Wuhan, China, in February to report about the emerging coronavirus outbreak, was sentenced on Monday by a Chinese court to four years in prison after being charged with "picking fights and provoking trouble," The Associated Press reports.

Zhang, 37, is a former lawyer, and while in Wuhan she posted online about what she was learning about the coronavirus in the region. She was arrested in May in Shanghai, accused of spreading false information and disrupting public orders. Zhang reportedly went on a hunger strike during her detention, and is now in poor health, AP says. Her lawyer, Zhang Keke, told AP it was "inconvenient" to share details on the case, a typical response when a court has issued a partial gag order.

The Chinese government has been accused of covering up the initial outbreak in the country, and officials have cracked down on criticism, censoring reporters and health-care workers; early in the pandemic, several doctors who shared information on the virus with colleagues and friends were reprimanded for "rumor mongering." One of those doctors, Li Wenliang, later died of COVID-19.

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