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.
The text of Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh’s acceptance speech, as prepared for delivery, is below.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Committee to Protect Journalists for selecting me as one of the recipients of the 2018 International Press Freedom Awards.
Freedom! One cannot find a more fitting symbol of freedom than the Statue of Liberty right here in this great city of New York; where I have found myself in these immortal words that were cast more than a century ago: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
I am so grateful to CPJ for helping to secure my freedom. I am also profoundly thankful to the U.S. government and this country for accepting my family into her open and compassionate arms. But even now, as I am breathing the air of freedom, I must confess that I have yet to find complete happiness. Because seeking personal freedom in another land away from Vietnam was never my goal. My dream and my struggle have always been to one day be one of 90 million free citizens of Vietnam–living lives with basic freedoms, with human rights respected and protected, fully free to engage in the process of self-determination.
My personal freedom today was secured by the tireless efforts and contributions of many friends and supporters. This newly gained freedom would only be meaningful if I use it as a voice for the oppressed back in Vietnam. So my journey for a free Vietnam shall continue, regardless of where I live.
I would also take this opportunity to ask all of you to shine the light of justice on another brave Vietnamese mother with 2 children of her own–fellow blogger Trần Thị Nga. She was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for her fight for freedom, democracy and human rights in Vietnam. Please support us in our endeavor to free this courageous woman. Thank you again, so much, for your recognition and support for bestowing this award upon me. Thank you everyone.