China: Media workers detained for sharing censored Covid-19 information

On April 19, Chinese authorities arrested two media workers based in Beijing, Cai Wei and his girlfriend Tang. They voluntarily contributed to Terminus2049, a crowd-sourced project that stores and collates reports and social media posts, containing information that is censored by the Chinese government. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the arrest of the media workers and calls for their immediate release.

A worker disinfects outside a high school in Beijing on April 27, 2020. Senior students returned to class for the first time since schools were closed down in January as part of efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Credit: Greg Baker/AFP

According to a report posted on Facebook by a Chinese human rights group, the families of Cai Wei and Tang were informed about their arrest five days after they had been held under police surveillance. The whereabouts of Chen Mei, a third volunteer working for the same project, remains unknown. He also went missing on the same day, according to his brothers post on Twitter.  

The trio were reportedly working on a project that involved publishing censored articles and personal accounts around Covid-19, as part of their contribution to Terminus2049, that included an interview with a whistleblower doctor, Ai Fen, from Wuhan Central Hospital. Since the arrest of the media workers, the Terminus2049 page has been reportedly blocked in mainland China.

Microsoft-owned Github, the largest open-source publishing and code-sharing site, hosts Terminus2049 which began its operations in 2018. Since Github is not blocked by China’s Great Firewall, many netizens take to the platform to archive censored articles that are banned on the Chinese internet.

Reports state that many other citizen journalists, including Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin, have gone missing since February 2019, after publishing news about Covid-19. Li Zehua, a citizen journalist who was reporting from the epicenter of Covid-19, Wuhan, disappeared for two months before re-emerging recently, stating that he was kept under quarantine by the authorities.

IFJ said: During a pandemic, the free flow of information is necessary in combatting the spread of the deadly virus. The arrest of media workers, exercising their freedom of expression to inform citizens, is not acceptable. The IFJ urges authorities to release the detained media workers and to immediately release further information on the whereabouts of the missing citizen journalists.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram