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Citizen journalist reporting from epicentre of coronavirus missing: report

A citizen journalist who was reporting from Wuhan — the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak — allegedly went missing last week, CNN reported on Monday quoting his friends and family.

According to CNN, Chen Qiushi had arrived in Wuhan on January 24 from where he uploaded videos online of what he saw during visits to “overflowing hospitals, funeral parlours and makeshift isolation wards”.

The report said that Qiushi’s friend on Friday had posted a video message of his mother on his Twitter profile, in which she said the citizen journalist had disappeared.

“Friends said they had been checking in with Chen [Qiushi] multiple times a day, fearing he could be taken by the authorities at any time for his reporting. When he stopped answering calls early Thursday evening, they grew increasingly concerned,” CNN reported, adding that as per his friends, Qiushi had left his Twitter login details with close friends in case he was “taken by authorities”.

As per the report, in the video, his mother said: “I’m here to beg everyone online, especially friends in Wuhan to help find Qiushi, find out what’s going on with him.”

Additionally, a friend of Qiushi’s, Xu Xiaodong, also played his mother’s message on YouTube saying Qiushi had been “forcibly quarantined”.

According to CNN, Wuhan and Qingdao city police had said they had no information about Qiushi.

Meanwhile, rights group Amnesty International has also expressed concern about his disappearance.

In a post shared on Twitter, AI said: “A citizen journalist who reported from Wuhan is missing —friends say he was forcibly quarantined.

“China must not use quarantine as a political tool to censor reporting on the coronavirus. If Chen Qiushi is in quarantine, the authorities must immediately reveal his whereabouts.”

The death toll from the virus has risen over 900 with at least 40,000 others infected by 2019-nCoV, which is believed to have emerged late last year in a market in Wuhan.

The death of a whistleblowing doctor who was reprimanded for warning about the new coronavirus had sparked rare calls for political reform and free speech in China.

Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist in Wuhan succumbed to the disease on Friday, over a month after he first raised alarm about the SARS-like virus.

He was among eight physicians punished by Wuhan police for “rumour-mongering”.

But after his death struck a collective nerve, a number of academics have spoken up to demand more freedoms in China.

At least two open letters demanding free speech have circulated on social media since the 34-year-old’s death — one signed by 10 professors in Wuhan.

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