China releases journalist jailed for Covid-19 coverage

May 23, 2024
Citizen-journalist Zhang Zhan is seen in Wuhan, Hubei province, China in this handout picture taken on May 3, 2020. — Reuters

SHANGHAI: Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan has been released from prison after serving four years for her coverage of Beijing´s Covid-19 response, according to a video released by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.


However, rights groups said Zhang was still under surveillance and that her freedom was extremely limited.

Zhang, a former lawyer, travelled to the central city of Wuhan in February 2020 to report on the chaos at the pandemic´s epicentre, questioning the authorities´ handling of the outbreak in her smartphone videos. She was detained in May 2020 and sentenced seven months later to four years in jail for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” -- a charge routinely used to suppress dissent. Zhang was due to be released on May 13 but a lack of information about her whereabouts had sparked concern among rights groups and activists that she could still be detained.

A short video featuring a pyjama-clad Zhang shared by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday appeared to show she had been released as scheduled. “Police released me from prison at five in the morning on May 13 and sent me to my older brother´s home in Shanghai,” Zhang said in the video, in a soft, halting voice.