A journalist who reported the live outbreak of coronavirus from Wuhan city has been jailed for four years, her lawyer said on Monday. Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, was handed down sentence by at a court in Shanghai after a brief hearing for her reporting and essays “in the chaotic initial stages of the outbreak.”

Her writings were widely shared on social media platforms in February this year, drawing attention from authorities. The Chinese government has so far sentenced eight people for reporting on the pandemic and the authorities’ failure to respond to the outbreak.

One of her lawyers, following the verdict, revealed that Zhang looked devastated when the sentence was announced. There are also concerns over the health of the 37-year-old, who went on a hunger strike in June and has been force-fed via a nasal tube.

Another lawyer revealed that Zhang’s health was declining and she had been suffering from headaches, dizziness and stomach pain. Zhang is sentenced just weeks before a team of World Health Organization experts is expected to visit China to investigate the origins of Covid-19.

Zhang criticised the government over its slow response to the pandemic in Wuhan, in an essay posted in February. The officials just locked down the city before giving them details of the deadly virus, she wrote in one of her articles. Human rights groups have expressed their concern over the sentence of Zhang terming it “a great violation of human rights.”


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