Source: #FreeMeNam Facebook page

Prominent blogger Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, aka Mẹ Nấm (“Mother Mushroom”) was arrested in Khanh Hoa, Vietnam on Oct. 10, 2016 under Article 88 for “propaganda against the State.” As a co-founder and coordinator of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers and the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year by Civil Rights Defenders, Mẹ Nấm is a well-known blogger both in the blogger community in Vietnam and internationally. She has been instrumental in human rights education in Vietnam in the past ten years through her blog posts and through her active participation in human rights promotion events off-line. She has written about politically sensitive issues such as police brutality, corruption, and has openly criticized controversial government’s policies such as the bauxite mining in the Central Highlands (for which she was arrested for 10 days in 2009), and, more recently, the government handling of the massive fish deaths in Central Vietnam.

Please take this Urgent Action by Amnesty International to demand Me Nam’s release, to ask that she has access to a lawyer and her family and that she’s treated in accordance with international law. Political prisoners in Vietnam are held incommunicado during the investigation/pre-trial period and face risks of torture and other ill-treatments, as documented by Amnesty International’s recent report “Prisons within prisons” on the conditions of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.

Below are the profile of blogger Me Nam by Civil Rights Defenders (2015) and news and reactions from the international community about her recent arrest.

Civil Rights Defenders, 2015: “At great personal risk, Me Nam has been right at the forefront of human rights activism in Vietnam. With creativity and openness, she is a source of inspiration as she breaks new ground for freedom of expression and speaks out for those who can’t.”

Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh is the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year. She is Coordinator for the Vietnamese Bloggers Network and well known for her use of social media to speak out against injustices and human rights abuses in Vietnam.

Quỳnh has been blogging under the pseudonym of Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) and has openly criticised the Vietnamese government over human rights abuses and corruption. She began blogging in early 2006 when she paid a visit to a hospital and witnessed many poor people in the hot sun desperately waiting for treatment, but ignored because they lacked money to bribe hospital officials.

Quoted on her award diploma Civil Rights Defenders sums up the wonderful spirit of this worthy recipient. “At great personal risk, Me Nam has been right at the forefront of human rights activism in Vietnam. With creativity and openness, she is a source of inspiration as she breaks new ground for freedom of expression and speaks out for those who can’t.”

Her personal motivation for blogging about injustices in Vietnam comes down to a very simple and personal reason, which she sums up in her own words; “I do not want my children to struggle and do what I’m doing now.”

Read our report about bloggers and the human rights movement in Vietnam: We will not be silenced

Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh – winner of the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2015.

Source: Defenders’ Days 2015 Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh

The New York Times, Vietnam Arrests Mother Mushroom, a Top Blogger, for Criticizing Government, Oct. 11, 2016

Committee to Protect Journalists, Prominent blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’ detained in Vietnam, Oct. 11, 2016

Associated Press, US and EU call on Vietnam to release arrested blogger, Oct. 12, 2016

U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, Statement by U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, Oct. 12, 2016

United Nations, UN human rights chief expresses concern about Viet Nam’s crackdown on blogger, Oct. 14, 2016

Human Rights Watch, Vietnam: Reform Criminal Law to Respect Rights – Assembly Should Overhaul Laws Recently Used to Silence Blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’, Oct. 17, 2016

Reporters without Borders, RSF calls for blogger’s immediate release, Oct. 17, 2016

Vietnamese Bloggers, Campaign to Free Me Nam (in Vietnamese)

The media has been buzzing lately with news about Vietnam– the protests of the large-scale fish deaths, President Obama’s visit (and the question of lifting the arms ban), and the much-welcomed release of Father Nguyen Van Ly from his fourth, and hopefully final, prison sentence. We also want to make sure that news circulates about Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who is starting a hunger strike on May 24th, during the President’s visit and on the anniversary of his arrest.

Thuc, an entrepreneur and blogger, is currently serving a 16-year sentence. He is less than halfway through the sentence. On May 5, Thuc was moved from Xuyen Moc prison to Prison 6, which is located in central Vietnam. The reason for the transfer is unclear, and this means he is now further away from his family. This distancing tactic has been seen in other cases of prisoners of conscience as well.

Thuc’s family visited him at the new prison on May 14th and reported that he looked sleep-deprived and thinner. Thuc told his family that the authorities proposed to release him, but only on the condition that he be exiled in the U.S.. This was an approach also used by the authorities in the releases of Dieu Cay and Ta Phong Tan. Releases, while positive, when coupled with forced exile, further silence activist voices and give off a false international image that Vietnam is complying with international requests for improved human rights.

Thuc turned down the proposition, saying he would rather die than be exiled from Vietnam. His hunger strike aims to promote government adherence to the rule of law and the right to democratic governance by the people in Vietnam. We are deeply concerned about Thuc’s treatment in prison, as well as the health risks that a hunger strike can pose. He has committed no crime and for far too many years has awaited justice. Please take action with us, below. For more background on Thuc’s case, visit his profile.

Take Action
Send an Urgent Action, from Amnesty International, on behalf of Thuc and other imprisoned activists.
Sign a petition on, set up by his family.
Tweet at President Obama, asking him to press for the release of Thuc permanently and not conditioned on exile. You can Tweet @POTUS, @BarackObama, or @State_DRL (Human Rights @ State).
Sample Message: Take action for Tran Huynh Duy Thuc on #Vietnam visit.Serving 16 years, soon to be on hunger strike. #FreeThuc.

JailBecause Vietnamese press has never been free.

A brief review of international reports last month is enough to convey the situation of the press’ (lack of) freedom year-round:

Human Rights Watch, April 4: “Vietnam: 7 Convicted in One Week. Long Prison Terms for Bloggers, Activists” – among them were three prominent bloggers/citizen journalists.

U.S. State Department 2015 Human Rights Report, April 15: “The CPV, government, and party-controlled mass organizations exercised legal authority over all print, broadcast, and electronic media through the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), under the overall guidance of the CPV Propaganda and Education Commission. Private ownership or operation of any media outlet remained prohibited […] Major foreign media outlets reported the government refused to issue visas for reporters who previously covered sensitive political topics, particularly reporters for overseas Vietnamese-language press.”

Reporters Without Borders’ 2016 World Press Freedom Index, April 20: “As the media all take their orders from the Communist Party, the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and citizen-journalists, who are the permanent targets of extremely harsh forms of persecution including police violence.” Vietnam ranks 175/180 in the 2016 Index.

Reports by Vietnamese citizen journalists and civil society organizations only add to those gloomy analyses:

Vietnam Human Rights Defenders, April 17, “Hanoi Security Forces Suppress Bloggers, Blocking Meeting to Discuss Obama’s Upcoming Visit”: “On April 17, security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi suppressed local bloggers from a meeting to discuss the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama to the Southeast Asian nation scheduled in late May. A number of members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), including IJAVA’s Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Vu Quoc Ngu were blocked from going out of their private residences by plainclothes agents from Thanh Tri district’s police.”

@AnhChiVN Twitter, April 20: “#Vietnam: A lot of facebook users summoned by police for questioning. One kind of harassment.”

And, right now, as I am writing this post, a citizen journalist, Mr. Truong Minh Tam, is under arrest for travelling to the central coast and reporting independently about the mass fish deaths along the coast. According to Vietnam Path Movement’s press release, “After doing the report, on the evening of April 28, 2016, Mr. Tam returned to Hanoi but since had been incommunicado. Then, on May 1, 2016, Vietnam National Television (VTV) and a few websites have confirmed that Ha Tinh’s Police Department arrested and detained him for collecting information and photographs to spread on the Internet with the purpose of inciting the public.”

The picture of press freedom in Vietnam has always been dark. It doesn’t look like it’s going to get brighter anytime soon. The flashiness of state-run websites and printed magazine covers can’t conceal the fact that all media outlets are owned and controlled by the state, that private press isn’t allowed, and that, by consequence, citizens only get filtered information, centrally fabricated information, or no information at all, on matters citizens consider vital and the state deems “sensitive,” such as the East Sea (South China Sea) dispute, the bauxite mining controversy in the Central Highlands, or the mass fish deaths along the central coast. Needless to say, the mainstream press accords no room for dissidents’ voice.

Dissidents, independent journalists and free-minded citizens have turned to blogs and social media, especially Facebook and YouTube, to share and exchange information and viewpoints. They are freer in expression there, because the authorities don’t have the capacity to monitor tens of millions of social media users. But it doesn’t mean they are free from state control and persecution. Prominent bloggers have been harassed and imprisoned for their online expression. Facebook users have been summoned about activities on their Facebook pages. Where’s freedom, then, when people have to worry constantly about getting fined or arrested for saying the wrong thing, sharing the wrong information, or even liking the wrong post?

After all, it’s another World Press Freedom Day the Vietnamese government doesn’t celebrate. But on this day, The 88 Project would like to remember and honor independent journalists and activists who have courageously and persistently reported on sensitive issues, pushing the boundaries of what is permissible in the Vietnamese press, and holding the government accountable before the public opinion. Many independent journalists and bloggers have risked their own freedom for the freedom of information of others. We are remembering in particular:

Until the day journalists will be free to write without persecution, and until the day private press will be allowed, World Press Freedom Day will just be another day to remind ourselves and others that despite the promise of “inalienable rights,” including the rights to”Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” in Vietnam’s Declaration of Independence in 1945, decades later, “Liberty” is still a luxury that is out of reach for all Vietnamese.

© The 88 Project 2016


The U.S. State Department’s latest report on human rights in Vietnam notes the lack of female and minority participation in national decision-making, despite the introduction of quotas. According to the report, less than one quarter of the National Assembly is made up of women, and only two out of 28 cabinet positions are held by females.

The United Nations Development Programme partially attributes this inequality in representation to persistent negative gender stereotypes in Vietnam. It is challenging traditional gender roles through its #HowAbnormal campaign to show what the roles would look like if they were swapped.

Vietnam’s gender inequality is also evident in its repression of dissent. Many of the activists currently imprisoned in Vietnam are women, including Bui Thi Minh Hang, a blogger and land and religious rights activist serving three years, and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, who was also sentenced to three years in prison, just last month. Also in March, three female protesters were sentenced to 3 to 4 years each for a peaceful act of resistance– waving flags.

Bui Thi Minh Hang is currently being held at a prison 1,000 km away from her family and has previously been denied access to them. Her current sentence marks the second extended period of time that she has been separated from her family in just five years. In a recent letter to her youngest son, she encouraged him to focus on his studies and not let her imprisonment distract him from his schooling. “Several years are nothing, right my son?,” she wrote.

Womens’ imprisonment is often biased against their needs and may also have different societal impacts. Imprisonment of female activists can have especially destructive consequences for families when one considers the traditional care work that women in Vietnam perform. This may be especially true where the women  is the sole parent or is caring for relatives. Further, as more and more women enter the workforce and support their families financially, the disruption of women’s contribution to the social and economic realms due to imprisonment, harassment, and injury to suppress dissent may become even more important to explore.

In a series of interviews with The 88 Project, Pham Thanh Nghien also spoke about unfair treatment in prison towards female prisoners. This includes disregarding feminine hygiene needs, like the need for adequate sanitary pads, and needs for extra privacy. Watch the interview.

Moreover, women are still afforded far less visibility in most international circles than are men. While this may be changing slowly, one must question whether women’s stories are told with the same vigor and support as men– and how women’s stories are told as well. Representing women activists in honest and powerful ways will surely honor their legacies more than portraying them as merely victims. Though framing women as victims may assist in fomenting international support for their release and assistance, it does little to dismantle oppressive gender roles that will affect women whether they are in prison or walking freely down the streets.

Often, organizations focus on aid and support for women who are in needed of healthcare, education, or other basic needs fulfillment. While this is no doubt important, and still greatly needed in Vietnam, so are organizations and advocates for Vietnamese women that focus on supporting local organizing, freedom of expression, and judicial system reform. Together, the two approaches can have a powerful impact on women and society as a whole.

Violence against and repression of activists affect everyone in a community. However, we need to consider the specific effects on women, as repression of their voices by the Vietnamese state only adds to the marginalization of their voices that they already face in the world at large.

Vu Minh Khanh LA

Vu Minh Khanh, wife of Vietnamese human rights activist Nguyen Van Dai. Source: RFA Vietnamese

LA TIMES, April 17, 2016 – Her food’s waiting — sizzling onion steak and fragrant catfish — but the woman on a mission does not pause between back-to-back interviews.

She’s done nine since leaving Vietnam and landing in Los Angeles last week, rushing to Orange County’s Little Saigon, fiercely staying on message, softly sharing a plea for her husband’s freedom.

Vu Minh Khanh, wife of famed human rights activist Nguyen Van Dai — beaten and imprisoned by the communist government in Hanoi — is determined that the American public and others “outside our community … know his work, his cause.”

“Now that I’m here in this country, I realize even more how much people suffer in my country,” Vu said. “How else can you describe it when you don’t have basic rights?” Read More

Anh Ba Sam at Trial

Bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy at trial. Source: VietnamNet

On March 22, less than 24 hours before the trial of prominent bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, families and friends of the two bloggers officially launched the book “Anh Ba Sam” in Ha Noi with foreign diplomats from Western embassies in attendance. “Anh Ba Sam” is the first bilingual Vietnamese-English book about a prisoner of conscience in Vietnam. It was released on Amazon on March 15, 2016.

At the meeting, Ms. Le Thi Minh Ha, the wife of blogger Anh Ba Sam, and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuyen, mother of blogger Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, expressed their gratitude to Vietnamese people everywhere who have raised their voices against the violation of human rights of the bloggers and the violation of criminal procedural rules in their case.

Each guest who attended the book launch and meeting with the families received a copy of the book and a T-shirt with blogger Ba Sam’s portrait printed. A copy of the book had previously been sent to the office of the Prime Minister of Vietnam in Ha Noi. Read More

protesters at trial March 23 2016

Supporters hold posters including those that read ‘Freedom for Basam Nguyen Huu Vinh’ and ‘Nguyen Huu Vinh is innocent’ during a protest held in front of the People’s Court in Hanoi. Photograph: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images

AP – March 23, 2016: Former police officer faces seven years in prison after being accused of writing stories that ‘distorted the policies’ of the Communist Party

The trial of a  prominent Vietnamese blogger accused of anti-government posts has started amid protests in Hanoi.

Nguyen Huu Vinh, a former police officer and son of a late government minister, and his assistant, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, are accused of abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state, an offence punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Vinh, 59, and Thuy, 35, went on trial on Wednesday in Vietnam’s capital. They have been in jail since they were arrested in May 2014.

Vinh, better known as Anh Ba Sam, was a police officer with the ministry of public security in Hanoi. He quit in 1999 and set up a private investigation firm. His father was a government minister and Vietnam’s ambassador to the former Soviet Union. Read More