Citizen Journalists Who Exposed Beijing’s Lies In Wuhan Have Suddenly Vanished

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Citizen Journalists Who Exposed Beijing’s Lies In Wuhan Have Suddenly Vanished

As we reported late Thursday evening, the death toll from the viral outbreak on mainland China has surpassed 600. With global markets once again in the red, Bloomberg reports that Beijing has silenced two of the citizen journalists responsible for much of the horrifying footage seeping onto western social media.

As BBG’s reporter explains, Chinese citizen journalists Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin have effectively been “the world’s eyes and ears” inside Wuhan (much of the film produced by American news organizations has consisted of drone footage). In recent days, SCMP and other news organizations reporting on the ground and publishing in English have warned that Beijing has stepped up efforts to censor Chinese social media after allowing citizens to vent their frustrations and share news without the usual scrutiny.

On Wednesday, China said its censors would conduct “targeted supervision” on the largest social media platforms including Weibo, Tencent’s WeChat and ByteDance’s Douyin. All in an effort to mask the dystopian nightmare that life in cities like Wuhan has become.

But that brief period of informational amnesty is now over, apparently. Fang posted a dramatic video on Friday showing him being forcibly detained and dragged off to a ‘quarantine’. He was detained over a video showing corpses piled up in a Wuhan hospital. However, he has already been released.

Chen, meanwhile, seems to have vanished without a trace, and is believed to still be in government detention. We shared one of Chen’s more alarming videos documenting the severe medical supply shortages and outnumbered medical personnel fighting a ‘losing battle’ against the outbreak.

The crackdown on these journalists comes amid an outpouring of public anger over the death of a doctor who was wrongly victimized by police after attempting to warn the public about the outbreak. Beijing tried to cover up the death, denying it to the western press before the local hospital confirmed.

The videos supplied by the two citizen journos have circulated most freely on twitter, which is where most in-the-know Chinese go for their latest information about the outbreak. Many “hop” the “great firewall” via a VPN.

“There’s a lot more activity happening on Twitter compared with Weibo and WeChat,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. There has been a Chinese community on Jack Dorsey’s short-message platform since before President Xi Jinping rose to power, she added, but the recent crackdown has weakened that social circle.

Chen has now been missing for more than 24 hours, according to several friends in contact with BBG News.

Chen has been out of contact for a prolonged period of time. His friends posted a message on his Twitter account saying he has been unreachable since 7 p.m. local time on Thursday. In a texted interview, Bloomberg News’s last question to Chen was whether he was concerned about his safety as he’s among the few people reporting the situation on the front lines.

It’s all part of the great crackdown that Beijing is enforcing, even as the WHO continues to praise the Communist Party for its ‘transparency’.

“After lifting the lid briefly to give the press and social media some freedom,” said Wang about China’s ruling Communist Party, the regime “is now reinstating its control over social media, fearing it could lead to a wider-spread panic.”

With a little luck, the world might soon learn Chen’s whereabouts. Then again, there’s always the chance that he’s never heard from again.


Tyler Durden

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Saudi Court Sentences Five To Death For Murder Of Jamal Khashoggi

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A court in Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced five people to death over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi Palace, was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul by a team of Saudi agents.

The Saudi authorities said it was the result of a “rogue operation” and put 11 unnamed individuals on trial.

The Riyadh Criminal Court sentenced five individuals to death for “committing and directly participating in the murder of the victim”, according to the public prosecution’s statement.

Three others were handed prison sentences totalling 24 years for “covering up this crime and violating the law”, while the remaining three were found not guilty.

The 59-year-old journalist, a US-based columnist for the Washington Post, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018, to obtain papers he needed to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

Khashoggi, however, never came out alive to meet Cengiz, and his body was mutilated and deposed off to a local Turkish collaborator, according to the Saudi account.

According to a statement by the Saudi public prosecutor, a total of 31 individuals were investigated over the killing and 21 of them were arrested. Eleven were eventually referred to trial at the Riyadh Criminal Court and the public prosecutor sought the death penalty for five of them.

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, had in June claimed that the five people facing the death penalty were Fahad Shabib Albalawi; Turki Muserref Alshehri; Waleed Abdullah Alshehri; Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, an intelligence officer; and Dr Salah Mohammed Tubaigy, a forensic doctor with the interior ministry.

However, Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to the Crown Prince, who was sacked and investigated over the killing, and Ahmad Asiri, a former Deputy Intelligence Chief, were not charged for the murder. they were both seen by the international community as the brains behind the killing of Khashoggi.

Also not convicted was the Crown Prince, who human right groups and advocates said “definitely” issued the instruction to his subordinates to kill the outspoken journalist.

The prince denied any involvement, but in October he said he took “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government”.

Shalaan Shalaan, Saudi Arabia’s deputy public prosecutor, at a press conference on Monday said the public prosecution’s investigations had shown that “there was no premeditation to kill at the beginning of the mission”.

“The investigation showed that the killing was not premeditated… The killing was in the spur of the moment, when the head of the negotiating team inspected the premises of the consulate and realised that it was impossible to move the victim to a safe place to resume negotiations.

“The head of the negotiating team and the perpetrators then discussed and agreed to kill the victim inside the consulate,” he said.

But Callamard, who authored a UN-backed report in June which stated that Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince were responsible for the murder, said in a post on Twitter that the investigation and trial lacked credibility.

“Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial,” her tweet read.

Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, described the Saudi verdict as  “not acceptable”.

Human Rights Watch said the trial, which took place behind closed doors, did not meet international standards and that the Saudi authorities had “obstructed meaningful accountability”.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the decision of the Saudi court was “far from meeting the expectations of both our country and the international community to shed light on the murder with all its dimensions and deliver justice”.

The public prosecution said it would decide whether to review the court’s rulings and decide whether to appeal. The death sentences must be upheld by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

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