NEW YORK—The news that Vietnamese blogger “Mother Mushroom” has been released from prison is a positive occurrence—and a bright spot amongst an otherwise dark record—for free expression in Vietnam, PEN America said today.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known by her pen name “Mother Mushroom,” is a Vietnamese blogger known for her writings on the environment, politics, and the issue of deaths in police custody. In October 2016, Quynh was arrested and later charged with “conducting propaganda against the state.” In June 2017, after a one-day trial, she was sentenced to ten years in prison. On October 17 of this year, news outlets reported that she had been released, and had departed for the United States.

Quynh’s conviction and ten-year prison sentence for her writings was widely and loudly criticized by numerous international observers and human rights groups. PEN America declared the case a “shocking example of Vietnamese authorities’ institutional assault against independent writers and bloggers.” While in jail, Quynh held several hunger strikes to protest the conditions of her detention.

News reports cite an anonymous Vietnamese official as confirming that Quynh was “sent” to the United States today. Many observers have concluded that Quynh has been forced into exile by the government as a condition of her release.

“We are overjoyed to learn that Mother Mushroom has been released,” said James Tager, Deputy Director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “Of course, she should never have been in prison in the first place, as blogging is not a crime. We encourage the Vietnamese government to act to release the dozens of other bloggers who have been similarly imprisoned for their online expression.”

PEN America had previously advocated for Mother Mushroom’s release, as it has advocated for the release of other bloggers in Vietnam, including blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh, who have faced legal charges and imprisonment for their right to free expression. In September, PEN America partnered with several free speech and human rights organizations to bring Vietnamese artist Mai Khoi to the United States, where she performed songs that are censored within her home country.mother


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.

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: [email protected]