Jailed Vietnamese journalist named CPJ Press Freedom Award winner

Pham Doan Trang is serving 9 years in jail for ‘spreading propaganda against the state.’
By RFA Vietnamese
2022.07.15
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Jailed Vietnamese independent journalist Pham Doan Trang is shown in an undated photo.
International Commission of Jurists

Imprisoned Vietnamese independent journalist and activist Pham Doan Trang has been selected as one of this year’s International Press Freedom Award winners by U.S.-based media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Trang, who co-founded Liberal Publishing House without registering with the Vietnamese government, is serving a nine-year sentence for “spreading propaganda against the state.” Prior to her arrest in October 2020, Trang worked to promote freedom of the press in Vietnam, despite strict controls in the one-party communist state. Authorities held her incommunicado for more than a year before she was convicted during a one-day trial in December 2021.

“Our award winners exemplify the best of journalism: work that shines a light on the impacts of war, corruption, and abuse of power on everyday lives,” said CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg in a statement issued Thursday. “We look forward to honoring these inspirational journalists, who demonstrate the central role journalism plays in serving the public good.”

Before her arrest, Trang specialized in human rights reporting and co-founded the independent online legal magazine Luat Khoa. She also wrote for the independent English-language website The Vietnamese and reported for the exile-run Danlambao blog.

In June, Trang received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. Her mother, Bui Thi Thien Can, accepted the award during a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, on her behalf.

Trang faced repression by the government for many years until authorities decided to jail her on a bogus verdict, said CPJ Senior Southeast Asia Representative Shawn Crispin, who is based in Bangkok, Thailand.

“Above all, Trang is a journalist and at the same time she is an active activist [seeking] to protect and to advance free press in Vietnam,” he told RFA.

Part of the reason to award Trang the prize is to draw attention to Vietnam and to use her case to call attention to the risks that journalists face there, he said.

“And that is that the number of jailed journalists in the country is abnormally high,” Crispin added.

CPJ has observed and collaborated with Trang on her advocacy for press freedom in Vietnam, Crispin said.

The group has regularly named Vietnam one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists in its annual list of imprisoned reporters and editors worldwide. CPJ documented at least 23 members of the media behind bars in Vietnam in 2021.

“The prize is once again to affirm the recognition of the international community of Doan Trang’s efforts for the development of independent media and democratization in Vietnam as well,” said Trinh Huu Long, editor-in-chief of Luat Khoa.

The Vietnamese Communist Party and the government should view freedom of the press as a precondition to address reform and governance to advance the nation’s development, she said.

“They must view independent journalists, free journalists, as partners in the course of building the nation, and not see them as enemies anymore,” Long said.

The other three award-winners are Niyaz Abdullah, a prominent Iraqi Kurdistan freelance journalist; Abraham Jiménez Enoa, a freelance Cuban journalist and co-founder of the online narrative journalism magazine El Estornudo; and Sevgil Musaieva, editor-in-chief of Ukrainska Pravda, Ukraine’s leading independent online newspaper.

“All four have withstood immense challenges, including government crackdowns, aggression and imprisonment to bring the public independent reporting amid rampant disinformation and war,” the statement said.

Galina Timchenko, chief executive officer and editor of the independent Russian news website Meduza based in Riga, Latvia, will receive this year’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award, the CPJ said.

The award ceremony will be held on Nov. 17 in New York.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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