CPJ is honored to present its 2018 International Press Freedom Award to Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, one of Vietnam's most prominent independent bloggers, is best known by her penname Me Nam or "Mother Mushroom." She was behind bars until authorities freed her in October 2018 and allowed her to depart with her family on a flight to the United States.
Quynh was arrested in 2016 and, the next year, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a one-day trial. The charges were in connection with 18 articles she posted online, including reports on an industrial toxic spill that devastated large areas of the country's coast.
She was convicted on charges of "propagandizing against the state" under Article 88 of Vietnam's penal code. CPJ research has found that authorities frequently use the law to silence dissent.
Prior to her arrest, Quynh wrote on her own blog and other online news platforms. She reported on sensitive issues censored by the state-controlled media, including official land-grabbing, environmental degradation, and police brutality. She also helped found the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, a group of independent journalists who banded together to call for press freedom.
Quynh faced frequent harassment by Vietnamese authorities prior to her arrest. Local police repeatedly called her in for questioning and temporarily detained her in connection with her online journalism. In December 2013, authorities banned her from traveling abroad.
The blogger prophetically told CPJ in 2014 that she feared she would eventually be arrested and jailed. Earlier that year, Quynh told CPJ about how she often disguised her appearance to evade officials who monitored her meetings and movements.
While Quynh was in prison, authorities refused her medical treatment, according to news reports. She was transferred to a prison facility far from her home province, making it more difficult for her family to visit. In May, she staged a week-long hunger strike to protest against poor prison conditions, according to reports citing her mother.
In late 2017, Vietnam was detaining at least 10 journalists, including Quynh, when CPJ conducted its annual prison census. All of them were imprisoned on anti-state charges.