Bärbel Kofler, Human Rights Commissioner of the Federal Government, issued the following statement today (11 October) on yesterday’s arrest of the Vietnamese blogger and human rights activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (known by her pen name, Mother Mushroom):
“I am deeply shocked by the arrest of the blogger and activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh. If reports are confirmed that Ms Quynh has been arrested and is being charged with spreading propaganda against the state, this would be another serious violation of the human rights principles and international rules that Viet Nam has made a commitment to uphold.
Ms Quynh uses her blog not only to speak out against human rights violations, corruption and social problems. She is also an important advocate for the many farmers and fishers in central Viet Nam whose livelihoods are threatened by an environmental disaster that has been caused by industrial waste. The fact that authorities are responding to these efforts to defend human rights and protect the environment and consumers with reprisals, arrests and prosecution sends an alarming signal – especially considering the government has proclaimed it will work to implement administrative, environmental and consumer protection reforms.
I call on the Vietnamese government to immediately release Ms Quynh, to halt all repression of bloggers and activists, and to respect the freedom of expression and freedom of the press that is also guaranteed by the Vietnamese constitution.”
Ms Quynh is one of the most well-known bloggers in Viet Nam and writes under the pen name Mother Mushroom. She was named Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2015 by the Swedish NGO Civil Rights Defenders, but was not able to travel to Sweden because she does not hold a passport. She could also not make a blogger trip to Germany for the same reason.
In her posts, Quynh focuses on social problems, government mismanagement, environmental pollution, and the situation of political prisoners. Most recently, Quynh was strongly engaged in the fight to defend the rights of fishermen and farmers in central Viet Nam, who have been affected by an environmental disaster caused by industrial waste. Ms Quynh criticised, among other things, the inaction of government authorities with regard to pollution released by large companies. She also spoke out for imprisoned activists and their families.
It is especially for her environmental protection efforts that she and her family have recently suffered more reprisals, for example attempts at public humiliation in the local community. According to reports by human rights activists and independent media, her home was searched by dozens of police officers on 10 October, and Ms Quynh herself was arrested. Should she be accused of spreading propaganda against the state, she could be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.
The arrest is part of a series of repressive measures that the government has taken against bloggers and human rights activists who are showing support for people in those regions in central Viet Nam that have been affected by the environmental disaster. Numerous activists have been beaten and temporarily arrested on the fringes of demonstrations, and some bloggers have been arrested and sentenced for political offences. Only a few weeks ago, the confirmation that popular blogger Huu Vinh had been sentenced to five years in jail by a court of appeal drew international attention.