New York, September 21, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about the deteriorating health of imprisoned writer Pham Hong Son, who was arrested in 2002 after using the Internet to distribute essays advocating democracy and human rights. Son is in very poor health and has been kept in solitary confinement for the last year, his wife recently told the Vietnamese service of the U.S. government–funded Radio Free Asia (RFA).
"The harsh conditions of Pham Hong Son's imprisonment add to the cruel tally of human costs in Vietnam's continued repression of the media," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. "Authorities should release him immediately and without condition and give him access to urgently needed medical attention as soon as possible."
Son's wife, Vu Thuy Ha, told RFA that her husband is suffering from a hernia, a condition that requires immediate treatment. Ha reported that on her last visit with him, in August 2004, Son told her that he had been confined to a windowless cell since August 2003.
Dr. Lam Thu Van, a former surgeon and vice chair of the Vietnam Human Rights Network, said that Son's condition could lead to fatal complications if he does not receive surgery.
According to Ha, authorities notified her in early September that Son was transferred to a remote prison in Thanh Hoa Province, making visits more difficult.
Son was imprisoned on March 27, 2002. Prior to his arrest, Son translated into Vietnamese and posted an essay titled "What is Democracy?" (The article first appeared on the U.S. State Department's Web site.) Son, a medical doctor, had previously written several essays promoting democracy and human rights, all of which appeared on Vietnamese-language online forums.
Son's original sentence of 13 years' imprisonment on espionage charges was later reduced on appeal to a five-year sentence, plus an additional three years of house arrest, in August 2003.
Son is one of three journalists currently behind bars in Vietnam for writing or distributing their work online. The other journalists are Nguyen Vu Binh and Nguyen Dan Que.