A Chinese citizen journalist faces up to five years in jail after she was indicted on charges of spreading false information stemming from her reporting on the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, The Guardian reports.
Former attorney Zhang Zhan was arrested in May for reporting on the outbreak. She was accused of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” and has been held at a detention facility in Shanghai ever since.
On Monday, her formal indictment alleged that she sent “false information through text, video and other media through the Internet media such as WeChat, Twitter and YouTube.”
“She also accepted interviews from overseas media Free Radio Asia and Epoch Times and maliciously speculated on Wuhan’s Covid-19 epidemic,” the indictment said.
Zhang on hunger strike:
Zhang has been on a hunger strike since September to protest her detention.
The indictment was made public only after media reports of an “information blackout” in the case, including a claim from her mother that she had not yet seen any details of the indictment.
One of Zhang’s lawyers was also “taken off the case,” according to The Guardian.
Zhang was previously detained on similar allegations in 2018 and in 2019 after expressing support for protests in Hong Kong.
Zhang is among numerous journalists arrested this year after traveling to Wuhan to report on the outbreak.
Rights group calls out arrest:
The Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a grassroots human rights group, said Zhang reported on “numerous stories including the detentions of other independent reporters and harassment of families of victims seeking accountability from the epicenter via her WeChat, Twitter and YouTube accounts.”
The group said Zhang has been force-fed since beginning her hunger strike and alleged that authorities refused to allow her attorney to participate in the case.
She “has long been active in speaking out about politics and the human rights situation in China,” the group said. “She has been repeatedly harassed and threatened by the authorities.”