Jailed for reporting on Covid-19 in China. Free Zhang Zhan!
Zhang Zhan risked everything to report on Covid-19 when it first appeared in Wuhan, China. Now she faces four years in jail without access to her family.
In February 2020, Zhang Zhan decided to travel to Wuhan as a citizen journalist in order to provide on-the-ground information about what was happening there. The former lawyer took to social media, reporting how government officials had detained independent reporters and harassed families of Covid-19 patients.
Zhang Zhan went missing in Wuhan in May 2020. She had been taken by the Chinese authorities and then detained in Shanghai. The judge sentenced her to four years in prison for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble". The authorities refuse to let her see her family.
In June 2020, she began a hunger strike to protest her detention. In December, Zhang Zhan's body was so weak she had to attend her trial in a wheelchair. She continued her protest as a partial hunger strike in the same month to avoid punishment and force-feeding.
Now, Zhang Zhan remains on a partial hunger strike despite the grave risk to her health, which continues to deteriorate at a dramatic rate. She was admitted to hospital due to severe malnutrition on 31 July this year and now weighs less than 40kg.
Citizen journalists were the only source of uncensored, first-hand information about the Covid-19 outbreak in China. Because they work independently of state-controlled media, citizen journalists face constant harassment for exposing information the government would rather keep quiet.
Sign the petition and tell the government to release Zhang Zhan immediately and unconditionally!
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Dear President Xi,
Zhang Zhan typifies the courage of investigative journalists who speak truth to power. Citizen journalists like her were the only source of uncensored, independent, and first-hand information about the coronavirus outbreak, publishing reports on social media and the internet despite constant harassment and repression. Yet, instead of being praised, Zhang Zhan received four years' imprisonment for daring to report what she saw.
If the Chinese authorities are serious about combating Covid-19 and preventing similar outbreaks from happening again, they must stop censorship and respect freedom of expression – free Zhang Zhan immediately and unconditionally.