PARIS, 11 October 2016 (VCHR) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) strongly decries the arrest of prominent blogger and human rights defender Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh at her home in Khánh Hòa province on 10 October 2016. Ms. Như Quỳnh, who blogs under the name Mẹ Nấm (Mother Mushroom), is accused of “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88 of the Criminal Code). She risks a maximum penalty of 20 years.
“Mẹ Nấm simply sought to stimulate debate and a free flow of ideas on diverse issues such as the dangers of Bauxite mining, corruption, social injustice, human rights or the Formosa pollution scandal” said VCHR President Võ Văn Ái. “She is a true crusader, not a criminal, and should be immediately released”.
According to the Vietnamese media, Security Police arrested Như Quỳnh after an investigation into over 400 articles she wrote and posted on Facebook and social networks (over 1,180 pages), and a document entitled “Stop Police killing civilians – SKC” that she had compiled and printed which gave details of 31 cases of people who died in Police custody in Vietnam. Police also seized a poster denouncing the government’s handling of the Formosa affair.
Accusing her of distorting the truth and inciting the public to oppose the communist government, Khánh Hòa Police said she “put forward pessimistic, one-sided views that upset and confused people’s minds and undermined their trust [in the Party].”
Born on 18 July 1979, Như Quỳnh began blogging in 2006 and became a one of her generation’s leading voices. As a result, she was repeatedly arrested and attacked. In 2014, she was named Human Rights Defender of the Year by the Stockholm-based organization “Civil Rights Defenders.”
In a report entitled “Bloggers and Netizens Behind Bars: Restrictions on Internet Freedom in Vietnam”, VCHR and FIDH published an article from Mẹ Nấm’s blog on the repression of anti-China demonstrations, in which she wrote:
“A few hundred people out of 90 millions who demonstrate for the love of their country. Who are they? They are not heroes. They are aware of the risks they are taking, but they have a longing in their hearts. They must do what they can to dispel fear amongst those around them, so that more and more people will step out of the shadows and join with them to shape our nation’s future.
“For the greatest danger facing the Vietnamese people today is fear – the fear inside each person’s heart that is slowly, inexorably stifling our vitality and our very future. Dispelling this fear is the most urgent challenge we face. If we can’t solve this problem, there is no point talking about democracy, independence or preserving national sovereignty. The destiny of Vietnam is in our own hands. It is up to us, no-one else.” (Mẹ Nấm, 17 September 2011).