(NEW YORK)–Ahead of her appeal on August 25, PEN America calls on Vietnamese authorities to immediately set aside journalist and human rights defender Pham Doan Trang’s nine-year sentence and release her unconditionally.

“The unjust imprisonment of Pham Doan Trang on the arbitrary charge of anti-state propaganda is, unfortunately, another example of the Vietnamese government’s persecution of journalists and human rights defenders aimed at eliminating dissent and silencing political debate,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, director of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Center. “Her nine-year imprisonment is a grave violation of the fundamental right to expression under international law. Trang must be released unconditionally and immediately in light of her critical health condition resulting from gross medical neglect during her detention.” 

A prolific author and a leading voice in Vietnamese civil society, Pham Doan Trang has been recognized internationally for her writings on politics and human rights, making her a target of the state for many years. She was arrested on October 6, 2020 and charged under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code and its successor provision, Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code, both of which criminalize “making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” She was sentenced to nine years in prison on December 14, 2021. Last year, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found Trang’s detention to be arbitrary on the grounds of the Vietnamese government’s violation of her right to free expression and right to a fair trial.

Trang was detained incommunicado for over a year until October 19, 2021, when she was finally allowed to meet with one of her lawyers. Trang’s health has declined during her detention: she has lost a significant amount of weight and has not received adequate treatment for various health conditions.

In addition, she contracted COVID-19 and suffers from long COVID. After a recent meeting with her, Trang’s spokesperson Trinh Huu Long expressed grave concern for Trang’s health due to the prison authorities’ lack of providing urgent and necessary medical care.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057