Prix Voltaire winner Pham Doan Trang arrested in Vietnam

Prix Voltaire winner Pham Doan Trang arrested in Vietnam

Pham Doan Trang, a Vietnamese pro-democracy campaigner and co-founder of Liberal Publishing House, which won this year's Prix Voltaire, has been arrested for “anti-state propaganda”.

The publisher was detained in Ho Chin Minh City on Tuesday and charged with “making, storing, disseminating or propagandising information, materials and products that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam". The charges carry jail terms of up to 20 years.

Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called for her immediate release.

Trang left a letter for publication in the event she was arrested, asking that her imprisonment be used to call for reforms of election laws in Vietnam rather than asking for her own release.

The arrest comes amid reports of tightening security in Vietnam ahead of the 13th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, which is expected to take place in late January 2021.

Kristenn Einarsson, chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee, said: “This is terrible news but also, sadly, predictable. Pham Doan Trang and Liberal Publishing House have had to operate in hiding and on the run for years. Her work and courage are an inspiration to all publishers, and the international publishing community must support her and fight for real freedom to publish in Vietnam.”

In early 2019, Trang co-founded Liberal Publishing House as a samizdat publisher working on books in the spirit of “liberal education and freedom of information”. Its primary activities include publishing books free of government censorship, printing and distributing them through either sale or complimentary, public giveaways. 

She was due to speak in a joint session presented by IPA at the Frankfurt Book Fair and her pre-recorded contribution will be broadcast as planned on 15th October.

Juergen Boos, the president of Frankfurter Buchmesse, said: “We are very concerned about Pham Doan Trang’s arrest, just before the start of the world’s largest book fair, the place where freedom of expression is celebrated. We are glad that the international publishing community will be hearing from Pham Doan Trang during the pre-recorded session 'Guerilla Publishing and International Support'.”