IPA, EU, Germany, USA Protest Pham Doan Trang’s Imprisonment by Vietnam’s Authorities

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The Vietnamese publisher, author, and journalist Pham Doan Trang’s appeal of her nine-year sentence is rejected by the Hanoi court.

Pham Doan Trang. Image: IPA video

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Einarsson: ‘This Persecution Must Stop’
In a statement issued today (August 29) by the International Publishers Association (IPA), Kristenn Einarsson says, “This persecution of Pham Doan Trang must stop.”

Kristenn Einarsson

Einarsson,  chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee and chief of the newly launched World Expression Forum in Norway (WEXFO), says, “Her unjust incarceration leaves her in ill health and we urge all governments that value freedom of expression to work urgently to secure her release.”

The prompt for this new statement and similar condemnation from a wide array of governmental, non-governmental, and international humanitarian agencies, is Thursday’s (August 25) upheld conviction and nine-year prison sentence for Trang in Vietnam.

Indeed, more awards have been accorded Trang since Publishing Perspectives readers were introduced to her work in June of 2020 as the IPA announced that the clandestine press Liberal Publishing House had been named winner of the Prix Voltaire for publishing with valor in the face of resistance and/or intimidation.

Trang is, for example, the winner of this year’s United States Secretary of State’s (Antony Blinken) International Women of Courage Award, and last month became the recipient of the Committee to Protect Journalists‘ International Press Freedom Award.

Nabila Massrali

On Thursday, the European Union External Action Service—which is the EU’s diplomatic service—issued a press bulletin from international affairs spokesperson Nabila Massrali, reading, “Today the Hanoi court of appeal upheld the conviction of Pham Doan Trang on vague charges of alleged ‘anti-state propaganda.’ During the month of August, the convictions of other human rights and civil society activists have been similarly upheld, including those of Dang Dinh Bach and Mai Phan Loi for alleged tax evasion.

“The numerous arbitrary arrests and convictions of peaceful activists and journalists are in direct contradiction to international human rights law. The European Union continues to call on the Vietnamese authorities to release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained. We also call on the authorities to allow trial observation and to guarantee the right to a fair trial for all individuals.

“The European Union will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Vietnam, and actively work towards its improvement.”

Ned Price

In a statement released by US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Thursday, the Joe Biden administration said, “The United States is deeply concerned” about the incarceration and condition of “renowned Vietnamese author and journalist Pham Doan Trang.”

Price pointed out that the publisher, author, and journalist “has been recognized internationally for her work to advance human rights and good governance in Vietnam. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found in September 2021 that Trang’s detention is arbitrary and in contravention of Vietnam’s international human rights commitments.  We note reports of Trang’s declining health and urge Vietnam to ensure adequate medical care and to allow access to Trang to assess her medical condition.

“Trang’s continued detention is the latest instance in an alarming pattern of arrests and sentencing of individuals in Vietnam for peacefully expressing their opinions.

“We call for the Vietnamese government to release Trang and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to exercise their right to freedom of expression, without fear of retaliation, consistent with the human rights provisions in Vietnam’s constitution and Vietnam’s international obligations and commitments.”

Luise Amtsberg

Germany’s Federal Foreign Office’s rights commissioner Luise Amtsberg also has issued a statement, saying, “The rejection of Pham Doan Trang’s appeal is a further severe setback for human rights and civil society in Viet Nam. Pham Doan Trang is a journalist, writer and activist who has campaigned for civil liberties, the rule of law and environmental protection for many years.

“For her courageous work, she is now set to spend nine years in prison. This is an outrage.

“The confirmation of her sentence follows numerous other rulings against environmental activists and representatives of Vietnamese civil society this year. With its repression of individuals and non-governmental organizations, the Vietnamese government is increasingly restricting civic engagement—a valuable source of creativity, innovation, and international integration.

“I call on the Vietnamese government to push for the release of Pham Doan Trang and other human rights defenders and to put an end to repressive measures. I also call on the government to safeguard rule-of-law principles in criminal proceedings and to give access to international observers.”

Borghino: ‘To Intimidate Others Into Silence’

Publishing Perspectives readers will remember that Trang, now 44, was arrested in early October 2020, shortly before a scheduled appearance at Frankfurter Buchmesse on the freedom to publish.

Juergen Boos

Buchmesse president and CEO Juergen Boos at the time said, “We are very concerned about Pham Doan Trang’s arrest, just before the start of the world’s largest book fair, the place where freedom of expression is celebrated.

“We are glad that the international publishing community will be hearing from Pham Doan Trang” in a recorded message. (See below.)

On Friday (August 26), the Associated Press carried Vietnamese state media reports from Hanoi, the Tuoi Tre newspaper’s account saying, “During the court hearing on Thursday, the judge said Trang’s activities ‘brought danger to the society,’ ‘violated the stability’ of the government, and that her sentence was justified.”

And Reuters Hanoi was able to speak to one of Trang’s attorneys, Dang Dinh Manh, who’s quoted, saying, “Trang argued that the initial trial in December didn’t follow domestic legal procedures and international treaty … but the court insisted that there was no foundation to accept her appeals.”

Manh added that Trang’s family members and diplomatic corps operatives in Hanoi were not allowed to be present at her appeals trial.

José Borghino

In December, when Trang was originally handed her sentence, IPA secretary-general José Borghino said, “All publicly available information about this case, the charges and the process, make it impossible to see this as anything but a show trial. The International Publishers Association commends Pham Doan Trang for her bravery in the face of this persecution which can only be intended to intimidate others into silence.

The International Publishers Association today has revisited its 2020 digital statement from Trang on the challenges of publishing in Vietnam. In that video, Trang talks about her publishing team having to move their equipment in secrecy. “There is no secure physical space for independent publishers to place our printing machines,” she says.

“Because of the extensive network of [surveillance] cameras and police informers, we must work in the dark, trying not to make noise or draw any attention from the people in the neighborhood. We must also keep moving from place to place to avoid detection. If any of us is caught printing ‘banned’ books, we will be arrested immediately.”

We have that video for you here:

More from Publishing Perspectives on Pham Doan Trang is here, more on the International Publishers Association is here, more on Vietnam is here, and more on the Prix Voltaire is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s global media partner.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.