Vietnam jails leading blogger 

000313-D-2987S-062 Vietnamese Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Pham Van Tra (left) escorts Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen (right) as he inspects the troops during an armed forces honors ceremony at the Ministry of Defense Guest House in Hanoi, Vietnam, on March 13, 2000. Cohen is the first U.S. defense secretary to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel. (Released)

A prominent Vietnamese blogger has been jailed for 10 years after being found guilty of distorting official policies and criticising the Communist leadership on Facebook and in interviews with the international media, according to her lawyer.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as “Mother Mushroom”, had a one-day trial in the southern province of Khanh Hoa, lawyer Vo An Don said.

Despite dramatic economic reforms and increasing openness towards social change, including LGBT rights, the Communist authorities maintain tight media censorship and limited tolerance of criticism.

Her conviction was based on 18 articles on Facebook and interviews with the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and other news outlets, the 37-year-old’s lawyer said.

Quynh co-founded a blogger network and has a large following in Vietnam.

Subjects including human rights, deaths in police custody and the release of toxic chemicals by the Taiwanese-owned Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp factory that killed huge numbers of fish in one of Vietnam’s worst environmental disasters last year have all been addressed in her blogs.

The judge said Quynh had defamed the government, harmed national unity, eroded popular trust in the government and undermined national security.

The single mother with two young children denied the charges. Her lawyer told the media: “Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh did not admit that she committed any crime, saying she has a right to freedom of expression.”

Saying the sentence was “too harsh and unjust”, Don said Quynh planned to appeal.

Quynh was arrested in October while visiting a fellow activist in prison.

She was also convicted for publishing inaccurate information to humiliate and erode public trust in the police, based on her reports about police brutality.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International and Sweden’s Civil Rights Defenders have called for her release.

“The scandal here is not what Mother Mushroom said, but Hanoi’s stubborn refusal to repeal draconian, rights-abusing laws that punish peaceful dissent and tarnish Vietnam’s international reputation,” argued Phil Robertson, HRW’s regional deputy.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said the trial was held in accordance with Vietnam’s law.

“Like other countries in the world, in Vietnam, all law-violating acts must be strictly dealt with in accordance with the regulations of Vietnamese law,” Hang told the media.

In March, Quynh was awarded the International Women of Courage Award from the State Department in Washington.

Hanoi condemned the award as “not appropriate and of no benefit to the development of the relations between the two countries”.

HRW has estimated that there were 110 political prisoners in Vietnam.


The Vietnamese authorities tolerate little criticism. Picture credit: Wikimedia