Jailed Vietnamese writer honored with international award

Pham Doan Trang is serving a nine-year sentence for ‘propaganda.’
Journalist Pham Doan Trang.
CPJ/Paul Mooney

An international pressure group representing writers, artists and journalists is presenting its top award to Vietnamese author, journalist and dissident Pham Doan Trang.

PEN America said Thursday Trang would receive the 2024 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award on May 16 at a ceremony in New York.

The annual award is given to writers jailed for their views and activities. Trang, 45, was arrested in 2020 and accused of “anti-state propaganda.”

She was sentenced to nine years in prison and sent to An Phuoc Prison in Binh Duong province 1,448 kilometers (900 miles) from her home, making it hard to receive family visits.

Trang has published several books about democracy, including “Non-Violent Resistance,” “Politics for the Common People,” “A Handbook for Freedom Fighters,” and “Politics of a Police State.”

She also participated in writing bilingual reports on human rights and democracy in Vietnam, notably the Dong Tam Report, written about the deadly police land seizure in the suburbs of Hanoi in 2020.

“Pham Doan Trang has galvanized the Vietnamese people through her writings on democracy, human rights, environmental degradation, and women’s empowerment,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. 

“The Vietnamese government has persecuted and jailed Trang in an effort to still her voice.  

“She has sacrificed her health and freedom in the pursuit of justice.   

“Despite the government’s crackdown on dissent and activism, her powerful words continue to inspire people across Vietnam and throughout the world.”

In 2019, fearing arrest, Trang released a letter and video message saying, “I don’t want freedom for just myself; that’s too easy. I want something greater: freedom for Vietnam. It might seem like some grand goal, but it’s totally possible – with your support.”

Trang has received many awards for human rights activities including the Woman of Courage Award 2022 from the U.S. State Department, the Media Freedom Award 2022 from the British and Canadian governments, the 2017 Homo Homini Award from People In Need (Czech Republic), the 2019 Press Freedom Award from Reporters Without Borders (RFS), the 2022 Martin Ennals Award, and the 2022 International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

PEN America has repeatedly called for Trang’s release and the repeal of the law under which she was prosecuted.

Trang’s lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, who fled to the United States fearing prosecution in Vietnam, and Trang’s friend, Quynh-Vi Tran, co-founder and executive director of Legal Initiatives for Vietnam, who lives in Taiwan, will receive the PEN/Barbey award on her behalf.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Elaine Chan.


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