News |Feuchtwanger Fellow arrested

Berlin/Los Angeles, October 16, 2020

Pham Doan Trang. Photo: VATMH/Friedel Schmoranzer

Journalist and Blogger Pham Doan Trang arrested in Vietnam on a charge of alleged “anti-state propaganda.”

Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House (VATMH) calls for the immediate release of Vietnamese author, journalist, and blogger Pham Doan Trang who was arrested at the beginning of October on a charge of alleged “anti-state propaganda.” In 2014, Pham Doan Trang held the Feuchtwanger Fellowship at Villa Aurora in Los Angeles. In 2019, she was awarded the Press Freedom Award for Impact by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Pham Doan Trang is a tireless advocate for human rights, freedom of expression, and democratic reform in her home country. Her Blog has about twenty-thousand daily visitors. Her publications Politics for the Common People, A Handbook for the Families of Prisoners und On Non-violent Resistance Techniques. In a letter she wrote in 2019 to be published in case of her arrest, she wrote: “I don’t want freedom for just myself; that’s too easy. I want something greater: freedom for Vietnam.”

Vietnam ranks 175th of 180 states on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders and is one of the countries with the highest numbers of jailed journalists. Bloggers and citizen journalist are often the only sources of information verified independently from the state-controlled media informing the Vietnamese people of their rights under the law. They are being detained under charges of “anti-state propaganda” or “activities intended to overthrow the government.” These charges carry prison sentences of up to twenty years, and mistreatment of prisoners is common. In 2017, Vietnam created a cyber-warfare department to target the dissemination of alleged misinformation on the internet. Since 2019, foreign platforms are required by law to retain information for Vietnamese users and to hand over these data if instructed to do so by the authorities.

“Pham Doan Trang is a courageous defender of freedom and human rights,” says the VATMH's vice-chairwoman, Marianne Heuwagen, “the accusations made by the Vietnamese government are baseless and serve only to silence a critical voice.” The Washington Post Editorial Board called Trang a “selfless and courageous champion of democracy.

The Feuchtwanger Fellowship allows journalists from countries with restrictions on freedom of opinion, to live and work in Lion and Marta Feuchwanger's residence in California for a period of six months. Pham Doan Trang was nominated by Reporters Without Borders. Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House, in cooperation Feuchtwanger Memorial Library of University of Southern California award this fellowship, which is financed by the German Foreign Office. It commemorates the German exile in the United States and the persisting suppression of freedom of expression in many parts of the world.

More information on press freedom in Vietnam

Video message on press freedom in Vietnam recorded by Pham Doan Trang during her fellowship at Villa Aurora

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