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Chinese Citizen Journalist Sentenced to 4 Years for Coronavirus Reporting

Zhang Zhan reported from Wuhan in early 2020 about the dire conditions as the pandemic swept the city

A Chinese citizen journalist named Zhang Zhan has been sentenced to four years in prison for her early reporting on the conditions in Wuhan amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to multiple reports.

Per the New York Times, Zhan is the first known person to face a trial for her reporting on the early days of the outbreak. She documented the conditions within packed hospitals and spoke to residents of Wuhan about their concerns, providing a more dire view than the narrative from the state-controlled media.

The AFP reports she’s been on a hunger strike since June and is being force-fed through a nasal tube.

Zhan traveled from her home in Shanghai to Wuhan in February, according to the Times, where the former lawyer worked to document the state of residents’ lives in the city where the outbreak began until her videos suddenly stopped in May, when she was arrested and accused of spreading lies. Her dispatches were “fiercely critical” of the government, said the Times, and questioned its treatment of whistle-blowers as well as the appropriateness of the city’s lockdown and whether it was too harsh.

“The government’s way of managing this city has just been intimidation and threats,” she said in a video. “This is truly the tragedy of this country.”

Though Zhan is the first known person to be tried, other citizen journalists have also been arrested for reporting on and contradicting the government and its messaging around the outbreak.