The government desperately needs to hear from people like Tuan, who spur reflection and often serve as conduits of public opinion.


PEN America | January 2, 2024

(New York) – PEN America is profoundly concerned about Le Huu Minh Tuan, an editor, and member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), whose health has sharply declined since his arrest in January 2021, and calls on the Vietnamese government to immediately release, drop all charges, and provide critical medical attention to Le Huu Minh Tuan. 

“Le Huu Minh Tuan’s rapidly deteriorating health, exacerbated by medical neglect and unjustified incarceration, serves as an appalling reminder of the dangers of fighting for free expression in Vietnam. Healthy, flourishing societies depend on a right to free speech so that information can be shared, thoughts exchanged, and ideas developed. The government desperately needs to hear from people like Tuan, who spur reflection and often serve as conduits of public opinion. The Vietnamese government must ensure the well-being of Le Huu Minh Tuan by granting his immediate release,” said PEN America Research and Advocacy Coordinator Anh-Thu Vo. 

Tuan, 34, was sentenced to 11 years in prison under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for “propaganda against the state.” He was arrested alongside two other IJAVN members for writing “reactionary content” and publishing articles that “distort the truth, incite individuals to rise up and overthrow the people’s government, or even incite hatred and extremism.” 

According to Tuan’s family, his health has deteriorated to the extent that he can no longer ingest any food without experiencing vomiting. Restricted to seeing him through a thick glass partition and communicating only via telephone, his family has witnessed his struggle to walk and describe him as “pale” and “only bone and skin.” While in prison, Tuan has been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and hepatitis and developed scabies. Nonetheless, officials have refused to give him medicine sent by his family, instead only allowing the medicine they provide.

In PEN America’s 2022 Freedom to Write Index, Vietnam was tied for fourth place behind China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia for jailing the greatest number of writers globally. In October 2023, PEN America submitted a joint report for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Vietnam, outlining concerns about threats to free expression and other human rights violations. This submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council highlights unjust imprisonment for free speech through the government’s weaponization of its Penal Code. PEN America’s commitment to advocating for the release of writers, journalists, artists, and all individuals currently incarcerated in Vietnam for sharing opinions contrary to government policies will continue as we actively champion free expression through the UPR Review process, including the upcoming February pre-session panel.




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