Posts Tagged ‘blogger’

Profile of Muay: A Laotian Woman Human Rights Defender

March 18, 2021

On 17 a blog post in hrcessex by Sarah Mui profiles Muay: “A Fierce Woman Human Rights Defender”

Houayheung (“Muay”) Xayabouly is not only a mother, small business owner and the primary breadwinner of her family, but shehas also been breaking down stereotypical gender roles by being a fierce human rights defender and environmental activist in Laos.She is viewed as a public figure among her community because of her work to shed light onto the countless human rights violations that she and fellow Lao people have endured at the hands of the national government. In 2019, the Lao government decided to make an example out of Muay and unjustly sentenced her to five years in prison, for which she was stripped of all fair trial guarantees. In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, I urge all who read this to remember her name, learn her fight and spread awareness to demand that all charges be dropped and Muay be set free.

Photo courtesy of Manushya Foundatio

In 2017, Muay began raising awareness on social media over the excessive tolls that she along with other people in her community were being charged when crossing a bridge on the border of Laos and Thailand. The cost of the toll was equivalent to several meals, but Lao people relied on it to travel to and from work each day, including Muay herself. It turned out that the Lao government had given the private international company, Duangdee, the concession to charge the toll when it constructed the bridge in the first place. This concession left her community in an impossible situation where they were perpetually indebted to this private company who took advantage of the bridge’s necessity. Muay’s video about the toll deeply resonated with the Lao people, who agreed that the government benefited from the financial relationship with Duangdee. This made Muay realize the importance of using her voice to speak up for Lao people, and it was then that she made the decision to dedicate her life to fighting for them.   

The Lao government did nothing in response to their people’s outcry over the excessive tolls, but rather chose to focus attention on finding ways to intimidate Muay. Soon after the video went viral, the police were sent to her location to warn her to not criticize it.

In 2018, Muay challenged the Lao government over the corrupt hiring practices of public sector and governmental positions in that they were being appointed on the condition of bribes instead of through proper hiring procedures. This was quite personal for Muay because her own brother had been deeply impacted by this practice. He had always aspired to become a police officer but was cheated out of money and the position of his dreams due to these dishonorable practices. Muay’s video discussing the topic received over 320,000 views as of July last year. 

Soon after Muay’s widely viewed video, she was fired from her job as a tour guide for “unknown” reasons other than the fact her employer had been mysteriously pressured to do so. 

Muay was not going to let the government deter her from helping Lao people. Later that year, she decided to create a school for Lao children to address the dire inequalities that they faced in accessing education. The current practice was for parents to pay a bribe to secure a spot for their children, otherwise they could not provide them an education. She started multiple fundraisers to accomplish this goal, including selling shirts that said, “I don’t want to buy government positions,” referencing the Lao government’s corrupt hiring practices in addition to holding a concert featuring a number of local performers. 

Again, instead of actually listening to the suffering of its people, the government chose to continue to try to intimidate Muay by shutting down the fundraising concert and prohibiting the selling of shirts. 

The year 2018 was also troubling because that summer a dam collapsed in Attapeu Province, which led to numerous deaths, disappearances and displacements of Lao people. The government purportedly underreported the impact of the collapse and restricted access to the scene by the media and independent aid organizations. Muay decided to take matters into her own hands and post her own videos of the disaster and its significant effect on the community. 

In response to the shocking video, Muay was called to the police station and was told to cease all criticism of the Lao government. 

Around the same time, Muay had learned that donations for the impacted families of the dam collapse were being sold by Lao police for their own monetary gain. She could not allow her community to suffer so she started collecting donations for them herself. She documented and shared this all on social media.

Within a few days, the Lao government issued a press statement advising the public against reading “unofficial news” about the collapse. 

In the autumn of 2019, the Lao people who lived close to the dam were again harmed after a tropical storm caused major flooding, leaving over 100,000 displaced from their homes. Again, disturbed by the Lao government’s indifference towards its people, Muay posted another video calling the government out for its slow response and its lack of preventative measures which could have mitigated the storm’s impact.  

Around the same time, the Lao government sent police to arrest Muay without a warrant while she was dining at a restaurant. She tried to post a video about what had happened, but she was forced to delete it. She was then placed in pre-trial detention long before her hearing and was denied an impartial lawyer and the ability to challenge her detention. She was subject to repeated long interrogations where she was coerced to confess to “spreading propaganda against the Lao government.” She was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison, for which she visitation has been limited and closely monitored. She has not been able to see her young daughter but a handful of times and international NGOs have been completely barred.

Photo courtesy of Manushya Foundation

The Lao Government is Using Muay as an Example to Silence Dissent 

Muay is a strong and dedicated woman human rights defender and environmental activist who has fought endlessly for her community. Instead of taking accountability and listening to the suffering of its people, the Lao government has instead chosen to turn a blind eye to its human rights obligations and punish Muay for her significant contributions to her country. Until now, Muay’s story has only been made available by a few NGOs working hard to shed light onto her fervent advocacy and now wrongful detention. To spread the word about her fight, please share this blog, follow #FreeMuay and visit this link to demand that Muay be set free!

About the Author: Sarah Mui is an American human rights lawyer currently in the LLM for International Human Rights Law program at the University of Essex. She is also a research assistant with the Manushya Foundation located in Bangkok. Sarah hopes to work in the field women’s rights upon graduation. 

https://hrcessex.wordpress.com/2021/03/17/muay-a-fierce-woman-human-rights-defender/

Vietnam detaines human rights defender Pham Doan Trang just after concluding its annual human rights dialogue with the USA

October 8, 2020

Prominent Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang was arrested on the night of October 6 [File: Adam Bemma/Al Jazeera]
Prominent Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang was arrested on the night of October 6 [File: Adam Bemma/Al Jazeera]

On 7 October 2020 al-jazeera reported that Vietnam has detained prominent human rights defender and writer Pham Doan Trang just hours after the conclusion of its annual human rights dialogue with the United States. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/16/rsfs-press-freedom-award-2019-goes-to-three-women-journalists/]

Trang, a 42-year-old former journalist-turned-activist, was arrested at her home in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday night, and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda”, an offence that carries a jail term of long as 20 years, Defending the Defenders said in a statement.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested at least 25 activists as well as 29 land petitioners, bringing the total number of prisoners of conscience to 258, the rights group added. Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s Asia deputy director, said Vietnam was taking a “scorched-earth response” to political dissent.

Despite suffering years of systemic government harassment, including severe physical attacks, Trang has remained faithful to her principles of peaceful advocacy for human rights and democracy,” Robertson said. “Her thoughtful approach to reforms and demands for people’s real participation in their governance are messages the Vietnam government should listen to and respect, not repress.

Trang’s writing covers a wide range of issues including LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, the environment, and democratic activism. Most of her work is published clandestinely including the best-selling Politics for the Common People, which is akin to a guide for fledgeling activists.

She is also known for her on-the-ground activism, taking part in rallies in support of imprisoned dissidents, the environment and in response to China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Trang has been on the radar of the security forces for more than 10 years and has been detained and harassed a number of times, including while she was on her way to a meeting with then-US President Barack Obama in 2016, and, a year later, after she met a European Union delegation on a fact-finding mission ahead of its annual human rights dialogue with Vietnam.

Her latest arrest came only a few hours after Vietnam had wrapped up its annual human rights dialogue with the US. The US State Department said in a statement that the virtual meeting lasted three hours and covered a range of rights issues including “continued progress and bilateral cooperation on the rule of law, freedom of expression and association, religious freedom and labor rights”.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/7/vietnam-arrests-leading-democracy-activist-after-us-rights-talks

https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/scorched-earth-vietnam-arrests-leading-dissident-activist-and-blogger/

In Memory of Tunisian human rights defender Lina Ben Mhenni

January 29, 2020

On 28 January 2020 The Human Rights Foundation in New York expressed its sadness at the passing of Tunisian activist, journalist, and educator Lina Ben Mhenni, after a long battle with a chronic illness (1983-2020).

Lina was a force who fought tenaciously until her last breath. She fought censorship, corruption, and human rights abuses, all while grappling with serious illness. But nothing stood in her way. Her voice and cause will resonate with generations to come,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “She will forever be an inspiration to all of us at HRF and in the Oslo Freedom Forum community to never give up even in the darkest moments. We will truly miss our beloved friend Lina.

Lina was one of the only Tunisians to criticize the repressive government openly on international broadcasts before the Jasmine Revolution began in 2011. She is often described as one of the bravest bloggers in the world, whose work was instrumental in documenting, informing, and mobilizing citizens during the Revolution. Lina’s impactful achievements led her to be nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. She authored and published a book the same year entitled, “Tunisian Girl: A Blogger for an Arab Spring.” Much of her writing was focused on freedom of expression and rights of women and students in Tunisia.

 

 

Lina’s life experiences went beyond her 36 years. Many people know about Lina – whether through the media or different social platforms – but no amount of reporting on her could do justice to the values and principles for which she fought during Tunisia’s era of tyranny and after the Revolution,” said Aymen Zaghdoudi, MENA Legal Advisor at Article 19 in Tunisia. “Lina stood with the weak, the deprived, and the oppressed – even at the expense of her own health – and turned her pain into inspiration and hope for those around her.”

Lina spoke at the 2011 Oslo Freedom Forum, urging the outside world to continue to pay attention to events in Tunisia and other Arab countries where recent revolutions appeared to have ended. Upon joining the HRF community that year, she was actively involved in the discussions unfolding about the Arab Spring.

In recent years, Lina continued to press for human rights and continued democratic reform. In 2016, she started a campaign called “Books to Prison,” to counter extremism within Tunisia’s prisons. She was inspired by her father, who was a political prisoner, and had once told her that prisoners had so little to read to change their minds or be inspired. By November 2019, her campaign had collected more than 45,000 books, helping to free the minds of tens of thousands of people.  Apart from her calls for democratic reform, Lina taught linguistics at a university in Tunisia and was a professional translator. She also brought awareness to the issue of organ donation and after a kidney transplant, amazingly received silver medals in the World Transplant Games.

You can read Lina Ben Mhenni’s blog “A Tunisian Girl” here.

https://mailchi.mp/609e2865ee85/hrf-mourns-the-passing-of-suleiman-bakhit-287648?e=f80cec329e

Mauritanian blogger freed after being held for nearly six years

August 1, 2019

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is delighted to report that Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed Mkhaitir, a Mauritian blogger who had been held for more than five and a half years and who was originally sentenced to death for apostasy, was released at dawn yesterday. When contacted by RSF after his release, Mkhaitir thanked all the organizations who have been campaigning on his behalf ever since his arrest in January 2014. He was arrested for a Facebook post criticizing the use of religion to justify discriminatory practices against the blacksmith community to which he belongs. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/24/ngos-demand-the-release-of-mohamed-cheikh-ould-mkhaitir-in-mauretania/

The death sentence he received in December 2014 on a charge of apostasy was eventually commuted to two years in prison by a Nouadhibou appeal court in November 2017. He should then have been released but many demonstrations calling for his execution had been held during his trial and the authorities continued to detain him on “security grounds”, denying him access to his family and lawyers.

“We are deeply relieved that he has finally been freed after being held for more than five and a half years in almost total isolation,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “For nothing more than a social network post, he was subjected to a terrible ordeal that violated a decision by his own country’s judicial system. This blogger was francophone Africa’s longest-held citizen-journalist. We thank all those who contributed to his release.”

Mkhaitir had made formal statements of repentance on Facebook and TV in the past few weeks. This was the condition that was set for his release after a meeting at the start of July between outgoing President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and several religious officials. The new president, former defence minister Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, is to be sworn in on 1 August. Mkhaitir’s release was the outcome of a major international campaign to which RSF, many other NGOs and his lawyers all contributed. …. Mainly because of Mkhaitir’s arbitrary detention, Mauritania has fallen 46 places in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index since 2016 and is ranked 94th out of 180 countries in the 2019 Index. Aside from Tanzania, no other country has fallen so sharply in the same period.

https://rsf.org/en/news/mauritanian-blogger-freed-after-being-held-nearly-six-years

More on Maxence Melo, a winner of the 2019 Press Freedom Award

July 22, 2019

Digital activist Maxence Melo. (Daniel Hayduk, AFP, File)

Digital activist Maxence Melo. (Daniel Hayduk, AFP, File)
A Tanzanian journalist awarded the International Press Freedom Award on 16 July [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/17/international-press-freedom-awards-2019/] said he hoped the recognition will “lift the corner of the veil” on the plight of reporters in his homeland reported News24 on 17 July 2019. Maxence Melo, a blogger whose critical writings of President John Magufuli have landed him in hot water.
The CPJ said the co-founder of the Jamii Forums blog in 2006, was a “champion of online freedom of expression” who never flinched, even in the face of Tanzania’s strict internet laws. Melo has been in court more than 80 times, the CPJ said, and is still facing prosecution for refusing to disclose his sources in a story criticising Tanzanian authorities. His work focuses on corruption, tax evasion and human rights violations.

Melo said he hoped the award would turn the spotlight on the exceptional difficulties faced by journalists in Tanzania. “This prize lifts a corner of the veil on what is happening in our country,” said Melo, who is barred from leaving Tanzania’s financial capital and biggest city, Dar es Salaam. “Never before in our country has a government violated press freedom so much.

It is of course not good news that my country is making the headlines because of its laws and practices that violate freedoms of the press and expression,” Melo said. “With the announcement of this award, I think the international community will take a greater interest in what is happening in Tanzania, in the difficult environment in which the media and human rights defenders work in Tanzania.” Melo, a father of three, said he had received death threats. “It is obvious that I am afraid, afraid for my personal safety, but also for the safety of my family,” he said.

In 2015, the East African country was 75th in the world in RSF’s press freedom rankings. By 2019, it had slid to 118th.

https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/tanzanian-press-champion-hopes-prize-lifts-veil-on-abuses-20190717

Maldives: Foundation launched in memory of Rilwan and Yameen

April 12, 2019

The families of abducted journalist Ahmed Rilwan and slain blogger Yameen Rasheed have launched a foundation in memory of the outspoken human rights defenders.  The foundation was announced Wednesday 10 April 2019 by their mothers at a private event held to mark Yameen’s 31st birthday. “This foundation will work to advocate for human rights, democracy, freedom of speech, tolerance, justice and the right to a dignified life,” Yameen’s mother Mariyam Shafeeq told reporters. The purpose of the foundation is to provide education and training opportunities for people who want to contribute in these areas.

Yameen, a satirist and IT professional, was stabbed to death near the stairwell of his apartment building on 23 April, 2017. He was killed by a radicalised group of young men who believed he was guilty of insulting Islam, according to police. Six suspects were charged with murder and preliminary hearings were wrapped up in October. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/25/sunny-maldives-murder-of-human-rights-defender-and-blogger-yameen-rasheed-tip-of-the-iceberg/]

Rilwan, an outspoken blogger and journalist with the Maldives Independent, was abducted in August 2014 outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé. Two suspects were acquitted last August with the judge blaming glaring investigative and prosecutorial failures.

The missing journalist’s family said the not guilty verdict showed “at minimum state complicity and, at worst, active involvement in Rilwan’s abduction and disappearance.”

On Wednesday, the families condemned the outgoing parliament’s refusal to grant investigative powers to a presidential commission formed to investigate deaths and disappearances. “We have seen that powerful politicians and criminal gangs have continued to use state institutions and the courts to bury the truth. The fact that the bill seeking legal powers for the presidential commission investigating unresolved murders and enforced disappearances have been put on the parliament’s agenda thrice, only to be held up in parliament is clear evidence that influential persons are working to pervert justice,” the families said in a statement.

For queries about the work of the Rilwan and Yameen Foundation email rilwanyameenfoundation@gmail.com.

Foundation launched in memory of Rilwan and Yameen

UN Panel debated death penalty with focus on human rights

February 26, 2019

Today, 26 February 2019, the UN Human Rights Council held its biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty, with a focus on human rights violations in the context of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality.  A report was distributed by the APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Here some highlights:

..In her opening statement, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded that death rows were disproportionately populated by the poor and economically vulnerable; members of ethnic minorities; people with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities; foreign nationals; indigenous persons; and other marginalized members of society.  Condemning people to death for conduct that should not be criminalized in the first place was never compatible with a State’s human rights obligations.  The High Commissioner encouraged all States to take a stand on the right side of history and join the international trend towards abolition.  

The panellists were Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal; Melinda Janki, Director of the Justice Institute Guyana; and Fatimata M’Baye, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association.  Yuval Shany, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, acted as the discussion moderator.

Mr. Shany drew attention to the adoption by the Human Rights Committee of the General Comment No. 36 on the right to life, according to which the death penalty could not be “reconciled with full respect for the right to life.”  The General Comment made particular reference to the problem of inequality in the application of the death penalty.  

….

FATIMATA M’BAYE, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association, said that there had been a moratorium on the death penalty in Mauritania since 1987, though there were still death penalty rulings handed down.  She drew attention to the case of Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, a blogger who had posted an article about social discrimination in Mauritania, which meant he was accused of blasphemy.  When he was arrested, he was asked to repent and quickly withdraw the article, but unfortunately, he was still prosecuted quickly by the police.  This case had given rise to a great deal of violence and hatred within the local community.  Mohamed was sentenced to death in 2015 by the penal court of the country, which was confirmed in 2016.  There was an appeal launched, and a two-year sentence was later handed down.  Ms. M’Baye said that the blogger was currently being held in a secret location.  The source of law in Mauritania was Islamic law, and women were often sentenced to the death penalty, many times accused of infanticide.  The death penalty was an egregious practice that was humiliating and degrading.  The United Nations could play a role in ending the death penalty by asking those States that still practiced it to abandon this punishment in the name of the right to life. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/08/us-state-department-international-women-of-courage-awards-2016-yulan/]

In the ensuing discussion, speakers expressed belief that the abolition of the death penalty and torture had elevated human dignity and advanced human rights.  The death penalty was a human right violation.  They hailed the adoption in the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution on a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2018, but noted that around the world capital punishment continued to be imposed in violation of major international standards.  Speakers expressed deep concern that the death penalty was imposed in a disproportionate and discriminatory manner to juvenile offenders, women victims of domestic violence, minorities, foreign nationals, persons with disabilities, and poor and economically vulnerable populations.  Some, however, noted that every State had the right to choose its legal and criminal justice systems, without external interference, and that the rights of defendants always had to be weighed against the rights of victims and their families, and the broader rights of the community and society.    

Speaking were Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Italy, Mexico, Singapore on behalf of a group of countries, Chile on behalf of a group of countries, Brazil on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia, Malaysia, Fiji, Slovenia, Ecuador, France, Iraq, Iran, Bangladesh, Argentina, India, Saudi Arabia, and Greece. 

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Friends World Committee for Consultation, Centre for Global Nonkilling, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Together against the death penalty, and International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), and the National Human Rights Institution: Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. ….. 

Iran respected those who had abolished the death penalty, but it could not accept any universal prescription to that effect.  Iran remained committed to observing the rule of law and due process in the criminal justice system, while continuing to study the best ways to serve justice.  Bangladesh stressed that its application of the death penalty was restricted to very selective cases of the most heinous crimes.  No child or pregnant woman could be sentenced to death.  Argentina believed that the abolition of the death penalty and torture had elevated human dignity and advanced human rights.  The death penalty was a human rights violation.

India reiterated its stance that it was a simplistic approach to characterize the death penalty as a human rights issue in the context of the right to life of the convicted prisoner.  This approach was deeply flawed and controversial.  There should be no external interference in the criminal justice system of any sovereign State. ….  Saudi Arabia stated that it used the death penalty for only for most serious crimes and in the most serious circumstances, after a fair trial had been guaranteed.  All procedures were in accordance with international standards as Islamic Sharia lay down the provisions of the punishments to guarantee the supreme rights of the people.  All States had the sovereign right to bring justice through their own procedures.  Greece opposed the death penalty in all cases and circumstances and highlighted the death penalty’s negation of the reformative function that any punishment should bare.  It was particularly concerned that the death penalty disproportionately affected women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and human rights defenders and therefore urged States to do their utmost to ensure a fair trial. ..

YUVAL SHANY, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, noted that many delegates had commended the trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.  However, a concern around what some had termed as a backlash against abolition in this field was also noted.  A number of representatives had also noted the irreversibility of the death penalty.  It was also noted that there was an increasing consensus that the death penalty if applied should only be applied for the most serious crimes.  There was also a strong concern from all corners of the room about the problem of discrimination in regard to poverty, sexual orientation, women, psychosocial disability and other issues.  The panel was asked: how could all address biases, racial biases, gender biases and other biases in the application of the death penalty, and identify good practices so the death penalty was applied in a non-discriminatory fashion? 

…..

Vietnamese blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’ released

October 18, 2018

Quynh, one of Vietnam's most prominent dissidents, was serving a 10-year-sentence for anti-state propaganda [AP]
Quynh, one of Vietnam’s most prominent dissidents, was serving a 10-year-sentence for anti-state propaganda [AP]

Vietnam has released dissident blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as “Mother Mushroom“. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/06/the-kind-of-blogging-that-got-mother-mushroom-10-years-imprisonment-in-vietnam/]. Quynh, 39, was freed from jail and put on a plane to the United States where her mother and children live. She boarded a flight to Houston around noon Wednesday 17 October 2018, said Martin Gemzell, Asia program director for Civil Rights Defenders, a group based in Sweden.

Quynh, one of Vietnam’s most well-known activists, whose recognisable pen name “Me Nam” comes from her daughter’s nickname “mushroom”, was jailed in June 2017.  She is an outspoken critic of Vietnam’s one-party state and gained notoriety with her writing about the environment, politics and deaths in police custody. Quynh came to prominence when she received the Civil Rights Defender of the Year award in 2015 and also the (USA) International Woman of Courage Award in 2017.

The overly broad, ill-defined scope of this law makes it all too easy to quash any kind of dissenting views and to arbitrarily detain individuals who dare to criticize government policies,” former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in 2016.

While the Vietnamese authorities have not given a reason for the release of Quynh, it coincided with a visit to Vietnam by US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis.  Quynh is the second Vietnamese dissident released this year. A prominent human rights lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai, was released from prison in June and went to Germany.

[See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/18/overview-of-recent-campaigning-for-human-rights-defenders-in-vietnam/]

https://www.wral.com/mother-mushroom-vietnamese-activist-is-said-to-be-released/17922631/

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/dissident-vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-released-181017100207668.html

What a courageous woman! Vietnamese human rights defender pledges to fight on at home

March 1, 2018

Dissident Vietnamese blogger Pham Doan Trang is shown in an image provided by the website danlambao.
 Vietnamese blogger Pham Doan Trang is shown in an image provided by the website danlambao.com

A Vietnamese human rights defender and blogger – now under house arrest – says she will not travel outside the country to receive a human rights award in March, vowing instead to remain in Vietnam to work for change in the one-party communist state. Pham Doang Trang, author of a recently published book on political engagement that has angered Vietnamese authorities, wrote on Wednesday on her Facebook page that she will not attempt to go abroad to receive her prize, according to Radio Free Asia on 28 February 2018.

I haven’t gone abroad and don’t plan to, not even for a few days to receive the Homo Homini Prize in the Czech Republic on March 5,” Trang said. “I will never leave Vietnam until Vietnam has changed.” “When one is like a fish that has been born in a dirty and polluted pond, one can either find one’s way to a nicer and cleaner pond nearby or to the vast ocean, or one can try to change one’s own pond to make it beautiful, breathable, and worth living in,” Trang said. “I choose this second option”.

[Trang received the 2017 Homo Homini Award from People in Need, an international human rights organization based in the Czech Republic. See : http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/homo-homini-award]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/18/overview-of-recent-campaigning-for-human-rights-defenders-in-vietnam/

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/change-02282018145831.html

https://www.clovekvtisni.cz/en/what-we-do/human-rights-support/vietnam/the-homo-homini-prize-for-2017-will-be-awarded-to-a-persecuted-vietnamese-blogger-4888gp

The kind of blogging that got Mother Mushroom 10 years imprisonment in Vietnam

July 6, 2017

On 20 April 2015 I reported on a Vietnamese blogger nicknamed “Mother Mushroom” being awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year award [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/20/vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-gets-civil-rights-defender-of-the-year-award-2015/]. Now a long piece by Visen Liu under the title ““Why did the fish die?” goes into detail about  why Vietnam thinks it needs to imprison for 10 years a mom blogger.

Last week, Vietnam convicted and sentenced her to prison for a decade on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state.” The main evidence against her? A body of writing, some 400 Facebook posts about fish deaths, China’s intervention in the South China Sea, and police brutality in Vietnam. Her Facebook posts were described by the police as “a pessimistic, one-sided view that caused public confusion and affected the people’s faith [in the State].”

Nguyen has described her writing differently, saying it was motivated by wanting to leave a better country for her children. She’s part of a wave of environmental activism that is growing in the one-party state where civil liberties and the press are severely restricted; in recent years Vietnam has seen public rallies over harm to marine life and to protect trees. Over years, from posting about parenting, she graduated to impassioned writing about the environment and human rights:

  • The 2016 fish die-off. Nguyen has often posted about the deaths of some 70 metric tons of fish in April 2016 that locals blamed on waste water from a new steel plant in the Ha Tinh province owned by Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group, a major investor in Vietnam. State-media first blamed the firm for the marine crisis, which hurt both fishing and tourism, but then back-tracked. The firm also initially said it was not to blame, sparking anger and protestsWhile heading to an environmental rally last May, Nguyen was assaulted in a hotel lobby, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Later that month, Nguyen made it to another rally and managed to hold up a sign asking “Why did the fish die?” Vietnam eventually officially blamed Formosa, which has promised to pay $500 million for clean-up and compensation. Security authorities cited signs they found in Nguyen’s home, including one that says “Fish need water,” as part of their evidence against her, according to the OHCHR.

  • South China Sea In November 2015, Nguyen called on people to rally against the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping, citing detentions of fishermen as well as China’s treatment of its ethnic minorities. Vietnam and China have ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In an earlier post she criticized Vietnam’s stance with China over the South China Sea.

  • Deaths in detention Nguyen and others compiled reports from state-owned media and put together a file called “Stop police killing civilians” about 31 people who died in police custody. The document was later criticized by the police: “[It] bears a hostile viewpoint against the people’s police force.” ….

    Offline protests Apart from blogging, she also waged her battles in offline protests. She actively participated and advocated for activities to promote a freer political atmosphere and cleaner environment. …

..She was detained and allegedly assaulted by police several times before her current incarceration. One time she faced a $66 fine over her Facebook posts. When Civil Rights Defenders, a Swedish advocacy group, awarded her the title of Defender of 2015, she was not able to receive the prize in person as she was in detention. At the same time as she was becoming an increasingly active blogger, Nguyen continued to support her family, including her two children, 60-year-old mom and 90-year-old grandmother, by working as an independent tour guide.

Things came to a head last year. Nguyen was arrested in October 2016 after she accompanied the mom of an imprisoned online activist to help her see her son. Her daughter, now 11, saw her being hand-cuffed and taken away by numerous police officers. Nguyen’s son was just two at the time of her arrest. In March, the US awarded her its “Women of Courage” award. Numerous rights groups have called for her release, including Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Defenders and Pen America.

Her activism has been motivated in part by her strong views that her children should inherit a country where human rights, environmental protection, and rule of law are meaningful and part of everyday reality, and not just rhetoric spouted by the ruling Communist Party,” wrote Phil Robertson, of Human Rights Watch….

Source: Mother Mushroom wants to know: The questions and Facebook posts that led Vietnam to imprison a mom blogger — Quartz

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40439837