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VIETNAM: CHASING A BLOGGER AS IF SHE WERE A BANDIT
May 12, 2018 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
DELANEY DEWHURST WRITES– “I’ll write as long as I’m free,” once emailed independent blogger and website contributor Pham Doan Trang, from an undisclosed location.
Last February, Trang was taken from her mother’s home and interrogated over a period of more than 10 hours about a textbook she published that references Vietnamese politics. Trang is not new to controversy, having previously written on hot topics related to environmental concerns, freedom of religion and matters of online civility.
When the 10 hours of interrogation ended, the electricity was cut off at Trang’s mother’s house and Trang was forbidden to leave. Two days later, Trang was interrogated again, this time for just two hours.
Despite being threatened with imprisonment, the charges against Trang were never explained. Not long after these transgressions, she fled the country. Shawn Crispin, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Senior Southeast Asia representative, stated that “Vietnamese authorities should immediately cease and desist their harassment of journalist Pham Doan Trang,” for if the press continues such interrogations, Vietnam will never be viewed as a credible, legitimate presence internationally.
The targeting and surveilling of Trang started in 2017, when her email was hacked by unknown web assailants. Wary, Trang started traveling more frequently between cities, hoping to stay under the radar. Reporters looking into Trang’s case questioned foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang, who responded by explaining that anyone who breaks the law will be punished in accordance with the laws of Vietnam.
Trang’s book, “Politics for the Masses,” is now banned in Vietnam but can be downloaded on Amazon. As Trang continues her controversial reportage, authorities will no doubt continue to haunt her. And while her literary voice is her strongest tool, it could also lead to her downfall.