Vietnam’s Pham Thanh Nghien Named Finalist for Rights Defenders at Risk Award
RFA - 03/31/2017
Vietnamese blogger and former political prisoner Pham Thanh Nghien has been
named a finalist for the Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders
at Risk, honoring activists who jeopardize their own safety to benefit their
Nghien, who is known for her work publicizing
violations against and defending the rights of relatives of fishermen killed by
Chinese patrols in the South China Sea, was one of five finalists selected for
the 2017 award, Ireland-based Front Line Defenders said in a statement.
Also selected were Ukrainian rights lawyer Emil
Kurbedinov, South African land and environment campaigner Nonhle Mbuthuma,
imprisoned Kuwaiti minority activist Abdulhakim Al Fadhli and Nicaraguan
anti-canal crusader Francisca Ramírez Torres.
“These five defenders demonstrate the tenacity
and will to persist in the face of severe, often life threatening risks,” the
statement said, citing executive director of Front Line Defenders Andrew
Anderson as he announced the finalists in Dublin on March 30.
“Human rights defenders tell us that
international visibility is vital to their work, particularly as governments and
corporations work to defame, slander, and delegitimize their peaceful struggle
for rights … Their struggle has not gone unnoticed and we in Ireland support
their fight for rights.”
The 2017 finalists and their families have faced
attacks, defamation campaigns, legal harassment, death threats, prison
sentences, and intimidation, according to Front Line Defenders, which works to
promote the visibility and protection of activists it says are critical to
rights movements in their countries and communities.
A recipient of the 2009 Human Rights Watch
Hellman/Hammet award for writers targeted with political persecution, Nghien was
arrested in August that year and sentenced in 2010 to a four-year prison term,
followed by three years’ probation under the charge of conducting propaganda
against the state.
Her home has since been raided, she has been
blocked from attending medical appointments, had a padlock placed on her door
from the outside, and been refused a marriage certificate.
During her probation, Nghien spearheaded several
rights campaigns and co-founded the Vietnamese Bloggers’ Network along with
jailed blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh—also known as Mother Mushroom (Me Nam). On
Wednesday, Quynh was honored in absentia by the U.S. Department of State with
the International Women of Courage Award for her work highlighting rights abuses
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service Friday,
Nghien’s friend and fellow activist Kim Chi said that despite the blogger’s
petite size, she is “very brave and always willing” to speak out about her
beliefs, noting that she had even suffered a severe beating by police in 2015
that left her covered in bruises.
“Today, she and her husband continue to be
harassed [by the government], but she continues to write important articles that
everybody should read,” Chi said.
“She has never stopped working for noble
The recipient of the 2017 Front Line Defenders
Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk will be announced at a ceremony in
Dublin on May 26.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.