Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, a prominent 37-year-old blogger and civil rights activist, was arrested in Vietnam over “propagandizing against the state” on Facebook. The award-winning activist, known to be critical towards the Vietnamese government, is facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Quynh was arrested on October 10 in her home town of Nha Trang, South Central Coast of Vietnam, by police and is being held in an undisclosed location. She is facing accusations of “distorting the truth and history, against the guidelines and policy of the party and the state” under Article 88 of the communist country’s penal code.
The blogger, publishing under the pseudonym of Me Nam (“Mother Mushroom”), is a prominent civil rights activist who never feared to reveal corruption cases and human rights violations committed by the Vietnamese authorities.
In 2015, Quynh was awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award by the Stockholm-based NGO Civil Rights Defenders. The award was given for “her use of social media to speak out against injustices and human rights abuses in Vietnam”. She was prevented from participating in the award ceremony in Sweden after being banned from traveling abroad.
Quynh is the co-founder of the Independent Vietnamese Bloggers Network, established in 2013. Her successful public Facebook account, active since 2012, presents countless posts critical towards the Vietnamese authorities, including posts calling to stop police violence and listing the names of 31 detainees who died under police custody.
The blogger’s mother, Ms. Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, was quoted by the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers:
“[Quynh] just did what the law allowed and the purpose is for the country to change and to enjoy freedom and democracy”
Quynh, a single mother of two children, has been suffering from recurring arrests, harassments, interrogations and even a physical attack in 2014 over her peaceful human rights activities in the past 10 years.
In response to her arrest, The United States and the European Union have issued statements calling on the Vietnamese government to release Quynh.
According to the Freedom House report of 2015, Vietnam’s status on freedom of the net is “Not Free”. It is reported that political and social content is being blocked, bloggers and social media users are being arrested and the press is also not free.
It was reported that 29 netizens are being held behind bars, among them at least eight bloggers who were arrested or prosecuted under the criminal offence of abusing democratic freedom to infringe on state interests. Additional laws and regulations require tight “registration and licensing requirements for new social media sites”, which may also be subjected to punishment under Decree 174 for critical content. These policies marks Vietnam as “one of the worst jailers of bloggers in the world”.