Updated Dec 28, 2020 - World

China jails citizen journalist for Wuhan coronavirus reports

A car displaying a poster of jailed Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan follows a caravan funeral procession in Pasadena, Los Angeles, honoring COVID-19 victims in November.
A car displaying a poster of jailed Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan follows a caravan funeral procession in Pasadena, Los Angeles, honoring COVID-19 victims in November. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A court in Shanghai sentenced a citizen journalist to four years in prison Monday after finding her guilty of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" by reporting on China's early coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, per rights groups.

Why it matters: Zhang Zhan's conviction marks the first known sentence of someone "who chronicled authorities' early struggle to manage the outbreak," Bloomberg notes.

  • Zhang is among several independent reporters "detained or disappeared" in a crackdown by Chinese authorities keen to portray the government's pandemic response as "effective and timely," per CNN.
  • There's no free press in China.

Driving the news: The 37-year-old former lawyer came to the attention of authorities in February, after her reports were widely shared on social media, documenting how officials "didn't give people enough information" and "violated human rights," SBS reports.

  • Zhang has been detained since last May, AFP notes.

Of note: Her sentencing comes as a World Health Organization-led international mission prepares to visit China next month to investigate COVID-19's origins.

Go deeper: The early days of China's coronavirus outbreak and cover-up

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on Zhang's arrest and further context.

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