CPJ concerned about health of imprisoned Internet writer

New York, July 25, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by reports that the health of imprisoned writer Pham Hong Son is deteriorating. Son, imprisoned since 2002 for distributing pro-democracy writings, has been coughing up blood, a U.S.-based Vietnamese dissident group, the People’s Democracy Party (PDP), reported last week. Family members have requested a medical examination to determine the cause, a PDP source said.

Son, a physician, was arrested in Hanoi on March 27, 2002, after translating into Vietnamese and posting online an essay titled, “What Is Democracy?” The essay had first appeared on the U.S. State Department’s Web site. Son had previously written essays promoting democracy and human rights, which were posted on Vietnamese-language online forums.

The Vietnamese government called Son’s work “antistate” and the Hanoi People’s Court in June 2003 sentenced Son to 13 years in prison, plus an additional three years of house arrest. Son’s sentence was later reduced to five years.

In August 2004, Son’s wife, Vu Thuy Ha, told the U.S.-government funded Radio Free Asia that her husband was in very poor health and suffered from a hernia.

Son remains incarcerated despite several amnesties of political prisoners by the Vietnamese government during the past year. Internet writers Nguyen Khac Toan and Nguyen Vu Binh are still jailed as well.

“We are gravely concerned about the toll that more than three years’ imprisonment has taken on the health of Pham Hong Son,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on Vietnamese authorities to release him immediately so that he can seek medical treatment.”