An honor guard stands at attention in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in April 2015. Plainclothes officials in Hanoi on February 24, 2018, interrogated Pham Doan Trang, an independent blogger and contributor to the Vietnam Right Now independent news website, and effectively put her under house arrest, prompting the blogger to flee, according to news reports. (AP/Dita Alangkara)

Vietnamese journalist threatened with prison goes into hiding

March 5, 2018 11:22 AM ET

Bangkok, March 5, 2018--Vietnamese authorities should stop threatening and drop any pending charges against journalist Pham Doan Trang, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement today.

Plainclothes officials on February 24 took Trang, an independent blogger and contributor to the Vietnam Right Now independent news website, from her mother's home in Hanoi and interrogated her for over 10 hours at an investigative security office, according to news reports and CPJ's communication with the journalist.

During the interrogation, officials questioned Trang about a textbook she recently published about Vietnamese politics as well as several of her news articles and blog posts on topics ranging from the environment, freedom of religion, and online civil society, the journalist told CPJ.

Following the interrogation, security officials surrounded her mother's residence, cut its electricity and internet access, and told Trang that she was not allowed to leave the premises, according to reports and CPJ's communication with Trang.

Trang was questioned by plainclothes authorities again for two hours on February 26, and was told again after the interrogation that she was not allowed to leave her family's house, putting her under effective house arrest, reports said.

Authorities who surrounded her house told Trang that she faced potential imprisonment without elaborating on what charges, the journalist told CPJ. Trang told CPJ she fled soon thereafter and is currently in hiding inside Vietnam.

"Vietnamese authorities should immediately cease and desist their harassment of journalist Pham Doan Trang," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "Vietnam will never be viewed as a credible international actor as long as it continues this type of persecution of the press."

According to the South China Morning Post, reporters on March 1 asked foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang about Trang's case, and she replied that anyone breaking the law would be "punished in accordance with Vietnamese laws."

News reports said Trang's book, "Politics for the Masses," has been banned in Vietnam but is still available for download over Amazon.

Trang told CPJ that unknown assailants hacked her email accounts, and that she has been on the run from surveilling authorities since mid-2017 due to her critical reporting, causing her to travel frequently between cities to avoid detection.

Authorities discovered Trang in Hanoi when she returned home for Lunar New Year celebrations. "They're still hunting me around," she told CPJ from an undisclosed location. "But I'll write as long as I'm free."

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