(NEW YORK)—Vietnam’s sentencing of the blogger known as “Mother Mushroom” to 10 years in prison after a one-day trial is yet another shocking example of Vietnamese authorities’ institutional assault against independent writers and bloggers, PEN America said in a statement today.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known as “Mother Mushroom,” is a prominent independent blogger within Vietnam, whose blog addresses social concerns including issues of police brutality, corporate environmental damage, freedom of expression, and corruption. She is also the co-founder of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, an independent writers’ association. Nguyen, who has received several international awards for her activism, has been previously  detained several times since starting her blog in 2006, and in 2015 she reported being assaulted during her participation in a protest campaigning for the release of political prisoners.

In October 2016, while visiting an imprisoned dissident, Nguyen was arrested and charged under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam,” in connection with her independent blogging. On June 29, in a one-day trial, she was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Vietnamese authorities retain tight control over all official media in the country, and commonly targets activists and independent bloggers who write on social or political concerns that diverge from the government’s narrative. In March 2017, well-known independent bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh and Minh Thuy similarly received years-long sentences for their blogging, after a court trial that took less than a day. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch released a report concluding that Vietnamese bloggers and human rights activists are “beaten, threatened, and intimidated with impunity.”

“Mother Mushroom’s sentence is part of a pattern where Vietnamese authorities treat bloggers as enemies of the state, simply for expressing themselves and for giving voice to community concerns,” said James Tager, Free Expression Programs Manager at PEN America. “Mother Mushroom’s engagement on important social issues in her country should be celebrated, not condemned. This sentence is completely unwarranted, and these charges should never have been levied in the first place. We call on Vietnam to immediately overturn or quash this conviction and release Mother Mushroom immediately.”

PEN America, the free expression advocacy group and American chapter of PEN International, has previously advocated for the release of Vietnamese bloggers and activists imprisoned or targeted for their free expression. In March, PEN America interviewed Vietnamese blogger Trinh Huu Long about the realities of independent blogging in Vietnam. PEN International has released an immediate call for appeals to Vietnamese authorities calling on them to quash the conviction and to repeal Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code.


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.


Sarah Edkins, Communications Director: [email protected], +1.646.779.4830