Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who used the blog name of Me Nâm (Mother Mushroom), had spent a total two years and seven days in Vietnam’s prisons when she was finally freed this morning and allowed to leave for the United States, where she will live with her two children and her mother.
Arrested in October 2016, she was subjected to eight months of solitary confinement before being sentenced to ten years in prison in June 2017. The authorities never stopped trying to break her and transferred her in February of this year to a prison 1,000 km from
her family, located near Nha Trang, a coastal city in the south of the country.
She nonetheless always refused to confess to “anti-state propaganda,” the charge on which she was convicted, because all she had done as a blogger was inform the public about environmental problems and human rights. While in prison, she staged several hunger strikes in protest against the conditions in which she was held.
“We welcome Me Nâm’s release, but it is unacceptable that a woman had to spend more than two years in prison just for wanting to inform her fellow citizens,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Our thoughts are with the dozens of other bloggers still languishing in Vietnamese prisons for trying to be the voice of those who are ignored by the regime’s propaganda. They must also be freed.”
Me Nâm’s release was unexpected. It coincided with US defence secretary Jim Mattis’s second visit to Vietnam, which had prompted speculation about a possible goodwill gesture by the Vietnamese leadership. Washington has in the past forged close relations with Vietnam in a bid to offset China’s influence.
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.