Day of the Imprisoned Writer - Me Nâm

Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Me Nâm)
Blogger

On June 29, 2017, blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, popularly known by her pen name Me Nâm (Mother Mushroom), was convicted of “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Penal Code and sentenced to 10 years in prison.  PEN International believes that Me Nâm is being targeted for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression. PEN International calls on the Vietnamese authorities to quash Me Nâm’s conviction and release her immediately and unconditionally, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a state party.

Take Action – Share on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media

Please send appeals:

  • Calling on the Vietnamese authorities to quash the conviction and 10-year sentence of blogger and human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh for "conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam" and release her immediately and unconditionally;
  • Reform overbroad national security provisions of the penal code, such as Article 88, Articles 79 ("activities aiming to overthrow the people’s administration") and 258 ("abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the rights and interests of individuals") to bring them into line with Vietnam’s obligations under international law.
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all other writers and activists imprisoned or detained for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression in accordance with Article 19 of the ICCPR to which Vietnam is a state party.

Write to:

His Excellency Tran Dai Quang
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Hung Vuong street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Vietnam

Prime Minister
Mr Nguyen Xuan Phuc
1 Hoang Hoa Tham street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Vietnam
Fax: +84 80 44130/ +84 80 44940

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr Pham Binh Minh
1 Ton That Dam street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Vietnam
Fax: +844 3823 1872
Email: bc.mfa@mofa.gov.vn

Copies to: Please ask your country’s diplomatic representatives in Vietnam to intervene in the case. For a list of Vietnamese embassies click here.

Publicity
PEN members are encouraged to:

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting Me Nâm’s case;
  • Organize public events, stage readings, press conferences, or demonstrations;
  • Share information about Me Nâm and your campaigning activities for her via social media.

Social Media: Please use the hashtag #ImprisonedWriter
Suggested tweets:

Background
Me Nâm is known for her writings on social media in which she has shared her opinions on social, economic, political, environmental, and human rights issues. In 2013, she cofounded the Vietnamese Bloggers Network. Me Nâm has also organized and participated in advocacy around government transparency, state accountability, and environmental protection. She is the recipient of the 2010 Hellman/Hammett Award, the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year award, and the U.S. State Department’s 2017 International Woman of Courage Award.

On October 10, 2016, Me Nâm was arrested while visiting imprisoned political activist Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy at the Khanh Hoa province public security camp. She was reportedly forced into a car and driven to her home and later transferred to Khanh Hoa Provincial Police Detention Centre. Her home was reportedly searched and IT equipment, including her computer and mobile telephone, confiscated.

According to documents submitted to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, Me Nâm was charged with "conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam" under Article 88 of the Penal Code on the basis that, from 2012 to the time of her arrest, she had used social media to "regularly write, upload and share articles and video content that distort the line and policies of the Party and State laws, denigrate individuals, and affect the reputation of agencies and organizations." Four hundred Facebook articles are being used in evidence against her. Me Nâm was also accused of being responsible for a document entitled "Stop police killing civilians – SKC," a report that was allegedly found at her home and that contained information on 31 individuals who had been found dead in police custody in Vietnam.

In March 2017, five UN Special Rapporteurs made a joint statement in which they express "fear for her physical and psychological integrity, and denounce the violations of her fundamental right to due process, in particular her being detained incommunicado, the denial of her right to legal counsel and the banning of visits from her family."

In its opinion adopted during its 78th session on May 30, 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) concluded that Me Nâm’s arrest and subsequent detention was intended to restrict her activities as a human rights defender, and that her detention violates her rights under articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); articles 19, 21, and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); as well as her right to a fair trial under articles 9, 10, and 11 of the UDHR and 9 and 14 of the ICCPR.

Me Nâm was convicted of "conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam" under Article 88 of the Penal Code by the Khanh Hoa province People’s Court on June 29, 2017. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Me Nâm’s appeal hearing, which was due to be held on September 27, 2017, was reportedly indefinitely postponed, for reasons that remain unclear.

Freedom of Expression in Vietnam
In Vietnam, writers, journalists, bloggers, and human rights defenders are often the targets of intimidation, threats and harassment, and brutal physical assaults by either the authorities or unidentified assailants. Many are prosecuted under vague national security provisions of the penal code, such as articles 79 ("activities aiming to overthrow the people’s administration"), 87 ("undermining national unity policy"), 88 ("conducting propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam"), 245 ("causing public disorder") and 258 ("abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state, the rights and interests of individuals"). Penalties for such crimes range from seven years in prison to the death penalty.

In a October 14, 2016 statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said: "Article 88 effectively makes it a crime for any Vietnamese citizen to enjoy the fundamental freedom to express an opinion, to discuss or to question the Government and its policies. The overly broad, ill-defined scope of this law makes it all too easy to quash any kind of dissenting views and to arbitrarily detain individuals who dare to criticize Government policies."

In its opinion adopted during its 78th session on May 30 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) found that "article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code is so vague and overly broad that it could result in penalties being imposed on persons who have merely exercised their legitimate rights to freedom of opinion and expression." During the same session, the UNWGAD also ruled that prominent lawyer, human rights defender and blogger, Nguyen Van Dai, is also being arbitrarily detained. Arrested on December 15, 2015, Nguyen Van Dai is reportedly facing charges of "conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam." In August 2017, Nguyen Van Dai’s lawyer announced that he is facing additional charges under article 79 (conducting "activities aiming to overthrow the people’s administration") of the penal code. Between July and September 2017, five members of the Brotherhood for Democracy – an internet-based group of activists fighting to bring democracy to the country, which Nguyen Van Dai founded – Nguyen Bac Truyen, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Van Tuc have been re-arrested. All of them reportedly face charges under article 79 of the penal code.

PEN International condemns the relentless crackdown against freedom of expression and the on-going imprisonment of writers, journalists, bloggers and lawyers, in connection with the peaceful exercise of their above mentioned basic rights.