IPA President: I admire Pham Doan Trang’s courage

On October 7, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security confirmed that it had “arrested” independent journalist Pham Doan Trang in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City on October 6. The short announcement posted on the ministry’s Electronic Information Portal said that the “accused” was “arrested for temporary detention and urgent search for conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code and “Making, storing, disseminating or propagating information, documents and articles to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code.

AP news agency quoted Youth newspaper as saying that if found guilty, Pham Doan Trang could face a prison sentence of 20 years.

The left picture shows Ms. Pham Doan Trang recently published the Dong Tam Report, the right picture shows that Ms. Trang has to go on crutches and after being beaten by security forces in 2016. The wound has not healed up to now

News of the journalist’s arrest was spread quickly online shortly after her arrest near midnight Tuesday, and it was immediately broadcast by international media, including major news outlets such as AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle… proclaimed, while the organizations that defended press freedom and human rights strongly condemn it.

The Organization Without Borders (RSF) announced the Influential Press Freedom award for journalist Pham Doan Trang. Photo taken from Facebook Le Trung Khoa.

Pham Doan Trang’s name is familiar with the international press because she has received many international awards on press freedom and human rights. In 2019, Pham Doan Trang is one of three women who won the Press Freedom Award of the Reporters Without Borders. Before that, in 2018, she was selected to receive the Homo Homini human rights award by People In Need in the Czech Republic.

All international news reports detail that independent journalists were arrested just hours after the 24th annual human rights dialogue between Vietnam and the US. They mentioned the achievements of journalists in the fight for human rights, dissidents, human rights activists, the author of many valuable books such as “Politics for common people,” “Non-violent Resistance,” “Politics of a Police State,” etc, and more recently, co-author of “Dong Tam Report.”

Will Nguyen, the co-author of the latest Dong Tam Report, released a letter from Pham Doan Trang “If I go to jail” after she was arrested. In the letter, Pham Doan Trang stated that she wanted to “abolish the dictatorship in Vietnam,” telling her supporters to continue fighting for the goals that she pursues. “I don’t need my own freedom,” she said. “I need something much bigger than that: Freedom, democracy for the whole of Vietnam.”

She said she would not plead guilty or ask for mercy, so if the police say so, it means “the police have fabricated and deceived.”

She expressed her wish that the supporters should take care of their old mother, and as a lover of music, Mrs. Pham Doan Trang wishes to have the guitar in prison, because for her, “the guitar is as important as the Bible to Christians.”

Mrs. Pham Doan Trang played and sing “Oh My Love” by The Beatles

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Asia at Human Rights Watch, said the Human Rights Watch strongly condemns Pham’s arrest.

Every day she is behind bars is a serious injustice, violating Vietnam’s international commitments on human rights and damaging the honor of the Vietnamese government,” Robertson said.

Amnesty International expressed concerns about the personal safety of Ms. Pham Doan Trang. The organization reiterated that she was persecuted since returning to Vietnam in 2015. And in 2018, after being arrested, she was hospitalized for being severely beaten by the police during her detention.

Pham Doan Trang may face the risk of torture and other forms of abuse at the hands of the Vietnamese authorities. She should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Ms. Pham Thi Doan Trang is an internationally recognized author, she is the spokesperson for Liberal Publishing House, the publisher awarded with Prix Voltaire Prix Voltaire by the International Publishers’ Association (IPA) in March 2020.

Pham Doan Trang intentionally accepts the risk to protect freedom of expression. I take my hat off in admiration at her courage and the strength of her faith.”

On October 7, the International Publishers’Association, the world’s largest coalition of publishers, announced, “The co-founder of Vietnam’s Liberal Publishing House winning the Voltaire Prize, was arrested before the Frankfurt book fair.”

According to the schedule, Ms. Pham Doan Trang will have a part in the discussion on freedom of publication on October 15 at the Frankfurt international book fair. President and CEO of Frankfurter Buchmesse said on October 7:

We are very concerned about Pham Doan Trang’s arrest, right before the world’s largest book fair, where freedom of expression is honored.”

From Geneva, the International Publishers’ Association (IPA) issued a statement written by Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA Free Publication Committee and Voltaire Prize Program- that:

Pham Doan Trang and Liberal Publishing House have been active in the dark for many years. Her work and courage are an inspiration to all international publishers, and the world publishing community supports her in her fight for freedom of publishing in Vietnam.”

Despite a series of difficulties due to the suppression of the Communist government of Vietnam, Liberal Publishing House still publishes and popularizes hundreds of books in Vietnam. Many activists have been persecuted for supporting the dissemination of books to readers

IPA President Hugo Setzer said:

Pham Doan Trang intentionally accepts the risk to protect freedom of expression. I take my hat off in admiration at her courage and the strength of her faith.”

Upon receiving the Voltaire award, Pham Doan Trang told VOA that since the Liberal Publishing House was established in 2019 until now, employees “never enjoy a moment of peace” because of continuous publicity security harassment.

In response to the news of her arrest, Amnesty International Deputy Director Ming Yu Hah said:

Arresting Ms. Pham Doan Trang is a wrong act. She is a pioneer figure in the fight for human rights in Vietnam. She is the inspiration for countless young activists who have stood up to fight for a more just, inclusive, and freer Vietnam.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) requested the immediate and unconditional release of Ms. Pham Doan Trang. The Vietnamese journalist was arrested Tuesday night on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state“. RSF has awarded Ms. Trang the Press Freedom Award in 2019 for particularly effective journalism.

Pham Doan Trang’s arrest is the latest example of suppressing criticism in Vietnam,” said RSF CEO’s Christian Mihr. “Her alleged crime is actually just disseminating independent information and enabling her fellow citizens to exercise the rights of the people guaranteed by the constitution. Ms. Trang cannot be imprisoned. She must be released immediately.”

Along with China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, Vietnam is one of the countries in the world where the most people are jailed for their media work, currently having at least 23 people were jailed in Vietnam for this reason. Most of them are citizen bloggers and journalists – often the only independently investigated sources of information, as the mainstream Vietnamese media are subject to Communist Party directives.

In the RSF list of free press, Vietnam ranks 175 out of 180 countries.

Vietnam ranks 175/180 on the press freedom rankings of Reporters Without Borders

From Amnesty International, on the same day, in a statement titled “Vietnam: A human rights champion arrested, in danger of serious torture,” Regional Deputy Director of this organization, Ming Yu Hah, called this an act of “blasphemy” by the government and called for the unconditional release of journalists and activists:

The arrest of Pham Doan Trang is a disgraceful act. She is the leading figure in the fight for human rights in Vietnam. She has inspired countless young activists to speak out for fairer, more integrated, and more free Vietnam.”

Pham Doan Trang faces the threat of imminent torture and maltreatment at the hands of the Vietnamese government. She must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Pham Doan Trang has been facing the mistreatment of her job as a human rights defender for women since she returned to Vietnam in 2015. Before that, she was hospitalized after being torture and endure gender violence following her arbitrary arrest in 2018.”

Also on October 7, the British news agency Reuters reported on the incident in a news report that “Vietnam arrested the activist a few hours after the 24th annual human rights dialogue with the US.” The report wrote:

International human rights groups and sources report that Vietnam detained a blogger and a dissident known for her anti-state activities several hours after the government organized the 24th annual human rights dialogue with the United States.

“… Despite deepening economic reform and growing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party has little tolerance for criticism and has intensified its repression of activists prior to the party’s National Congress scheduled in January next year.”

Thoibao.de (Translated)