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China: Press freedom groups call for release of citizen journalist Zhang Zhan

News Agencies | Updated on: 19 September 2021, 8:49 IST
Zhang Zhan

Raising concerns about the health condition of Chinese journalist and former lawyer Zhang Zhan, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has urged the Chinese authorities to exonerate and release Zhang immediately.

Back in December 2020, Zhang was sentenced to four years in prison after being found guilty of a vaguely defined charge often levelled by the authorities against those critical of the Chinese authorities.

"Today, a total of 43 non-governmental organisations dedicated to defending the freedom of the press, including the IFJ, today issued a joint letter addressed to China's leader Xi Jinping calling for Zhang's release, after she was reported to have suffered significant weight loss, stomach ulcers and reflux esophagitis," the IFJ said in a statement on Friday.

The joint letter said: "On the grounds of basic human dignity, we appeal to you, Chairman, to grant Zhang Zhan the opportunity to meet her parents again by exercising the power granted to you by Article 80 of the Chinese Constitution and ensuring that she is released before it is too late."

Furthermore, the IFJ also expressed grave concern over the treatment of the Chinese journalist and called on the government to immediately release her.

Zhang covered the coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan in February 2020 exposing the methods employed by the Chinese authorities to contain its spread as well as the state of affairs in local hospitals.

She was arrested in May 2020, accused of spreading false information through online platforms. The indictment document also said Zhang had speculated on the coronavirus outbreak while giving interviews to foreign news organisations.

Currently, Zhang is on a hunger strike to protest the arbitrary charges against her. Her health has since declined due to malnutrition.


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First published: 19 September 2021, 8:49 IST