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)

Bui Thi Minh Hang is one of the twenty women prisoners highlighted in the FreeThe20 Women Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Concern campaign which was launched by the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power in September 2015.

In the Ambassador’s words: “In naming these women, we are also seeking to send a message to the 20 prisoners and their families, and to others like them: We have not forgotten about you. We will keep pressing for your governments to free you. We will continue to remind people of what is lost when you are excluded not only from the conversations like the one coming up in New York, but from your communities and your societies. We will insist on reminding the world how much we lose when your voices are silenced – today and every day that you are behind bars.”

Please check out the video in which Ambassador Power personally told Bui Thi Minh Hang’s story and called for her release:

Source: Ambassador Samantha Power’s Facebook page

A lot has happened in Vietnam since bloggers took to the keys to write about human rights topics during Blog Action Day on October 16th. Unfortunately, Vietnam’s deteriorating human rights situation has only worsened in the three weeks following the event.

In mid-October, news surfaced of another hunger strike for imprisoned activist Cu Huy Ha Vu. Vu was on a 25-day hunger strike in June, protesting the actions of and treatment by prison officials. Vu began his second hunger strike after guards seized personal artwork from him, questioning its motives.

Only a few days later, on October 21st, the session for constitutional change opened in Vietnam. Parliament is expected to vote on proposed amendments to the current constitution between October 21st and November 30th. Several international groups and governments have urged Vietnam to strengthen human rights protections in the new constitution and eliminate the harmful loopholes that currently exist.

This session comes at a critical time as Vietnam seeks election to the UN Human Rights Council for 2014-2016 and continues negotiations with the United States over the Trans Pacific Partnership. If Vietnam does not heed international advice in considering human rights as a part of its constitution, it will make the case against cooperating with Vietnam for the TPP or a position on the UN Human Rights Council even stronger.

Policymakers in the United States and elsewhere raised concerns over the trial of Le Quoc Quan in early October, which led to a three-year sentence for “tax evasion.” Less than a month later, Dinh Nhat Uy received a 15-month suspended sentence for protesting on Facebook for the release of his younger brother from prison. Uy says he will appeal the court’s decision.

If that wasn’t enough for Vietnam, even this very Halloween week, activist Nguyen Lan Thang, who made a very popular video this fall about social media in Vietnam (see below), was detained. On October 30th, he was taken into custody at the airport (upon his return from participating in human rights dialogue in Bangkok) and was questioned by authorities. He was held until the following day.

Human Rights Watch reports 61 bloggers and activists imprisoned so far this year in Vietnam on the grounds of violating national security laws. That number is up from 40 in 2012 and has the possibility of rising exponentially in 2014. The only way to stop the number from growing is to keep watching and pressuring those who have evaded responsibility for it.

Vietnam’s Social Media video by Nguyen Lan Thang–


Human Rights Watch article on Dinh Nhat Uy–

Nguyen Lan Thang offers his insights into the realm of social media in Vietnam. He indirectly became a news source for foreigners who have a hard time gathering information about what the situation is like with state-controled media in Vietnam. His thoughts, photos, and videos drive home the severity of the recent free speech crackdown.

Thank you, Nguyen Lan Thang, for making this video, and thanks to all of the activists who continue to speak up.

Tran Van Huynh, father of imprisoned blogger Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, speaks of the Vietnamese and international communities’ response to Thuc’s case. He also thanks Thuc’s many supporters.

Thank you for continuing to spread the word about Thuc and other political prisoners. Check back for updates on the case, and please share this video and the website so that we can continue to raise awareness.

Please also consider sending a letter of solidarity to support Thuc and his family.

To Thuc’s prison:
Tran Huynh Duy Thuc
K3 Trai giam Xuyen Moc
Tinh Ba Ria, Vung Tau
Viet Nam

To Thuc’s family:
Tran Van Huynh
439F8 Phan Van Tri
Quan Go Vap
TP Ho Chi Minh
Viet Nam

The 88 Project – This is part one of the interview with Tran Huynh Duy Thuc’s father, Tran Van Huynh. He talks about his son’s innocence in regards to his 16-year sentence. Thuc was arrested under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for “anti-government” propaganda. Thuc’s family was recently prohibited from leaving their house to deliver a petition to the government prior to the Vietnamese President’s trip to the US a few weeks ago.

Family Free THDT

The signs read: “Tran Huynh Duy Thuc is innocent.”Click here for more information on Thuc.

Tran Van Huynh – “I am Tran Van Huynh, father of Tran Huynh Duy Thuc – a Vietnamese citizen who was wrongly sentenced to 16 years in prison and 5 years of house arrest under article 79 of the Vietnam penal code.
It’s been exactly 4 years since my son was arrested. Over the last 4 years, my family never stop believing that Thuc is innocent. Thus, to claim innocence for him we have many times appealed to the top state leaders and related government agencies for reconsidering his law case in a court of cassation. Through repeated petitions, I have presented proof that the unfinished book entitled “The Vietnam Path” written by Thuc together with 2 other democracy activists – a document that the investigating agency, the prosecution and the court considered to be “a master plan to overthrow the people’s administration” and convicted my son – is purely for the purpose of building and developing the country based on the respect for human rights and in the spirit of “enlighten the people, empower the people,  care for the welfare of people”. It is a pity that until now, our appeals and petitions have not received any proper response yet.”

(to be continued)

© The 88 Project 2013 – Free Expression Interview Series