tirsdag 29. desember 2020

What a journalist's jailing for heroic Covid coverage exposes about China

My business -- documenting attacks on journalists in Asia and advocating on their behalf -- requires a thick skin. I can't let every case get to me, or I couldn't function. But sometimes a case pierces through the armor. That happened Monday morning when I awoke to the news that a Chinese court had sentenced journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, to four years in jail for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." This follows the government indictment, which accused her of "publishing large amounts of fake information."

Zhang's real crime: to report factually on the ground at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, at its then epicenter, Wuhan, in video dispatches that challenged the government's official narrative. And then to stubbornly defy the Chinese government by insisting on her innocence.

Why did this case rise above others? Maybe it's the photos we at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) received of her in jail, just before the trial. Behind bars and a clear barrier that partly reflects light and obscures her image, a face mask is pulled down just enough to show the feeding tubes fastened into her nostrils. Prison guards shaved the front of her head. Her eyes look right into the camera. They scream misery.