China jails journalist Chen Jieren for "negative reporting" of Communist Party

Chinese journalist Chen Jieren was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday, for publishing negative information about China's Communist Party.

According to the South China Morning Post, a court in the central Hunan province released a statement which said that Chen was convicted for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble, extortion, illegal business operations and bribery."

Chen previously worked for People's Daily, the official newspaper of the country's Communist Party, but was detained in 2018 after posting false and negative information about the party online, the court's statement said, according to SCMP.

"The defendant published false information on blogs, WeChat public accounts, WeChat moments and other We-media to hype relevant cases under the guise of providing legal advice," the court's statement said, adding that he "attacked and vilified the Communist Party and government," while also accusing him of being a part of an "evil force," along with his ex-wife and three others that illegally accumulated 7.3 million yuan (over $1 million) from their illegal activities.

Chinese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Chen Jieren and his family members and associates, who have been prosecuted over Chen's exercise of his right to free expression. Hunan authorities violated Chen Jieren's right to a fair trial. Chen's heavy punishment sends a chilling signal to online independent commentators and citizen journalists.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD)

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a non-profit organisation defending journalism and freedom of information, China is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world, with more than 109 behind bars in 2020.

While speaking to CNN, Rebecca Vincent, a spokesperson for the RSF, suggested that the expulsion of journalists and the censorship of media in China helped to fuel the coronavirus pandemic.

"If there had been free press in China," Vincent said, "then this could have prevented from turning into a pandemic."

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