Jailed dissident to be honoured by PEN America

Imprisoned Vietnamese author-blogger-journalist Pham Doan Trang will be this year’s recipient of PEN America’s Barbey Freedom to Write Award, given by the literary and free expression organisation to a “jailed writer of conscience”.

Trang, 45, has written several books, among them Politics of a Police State and Politics for the Common People.

She has been a prominent critic of the Vietnamese government and a leading advocate for democratic reform who was beaten by police in 2015 and now walks with a limp.

In 2020, she was arrested on charges of “propaganda against the state” and sentenced to nine years in prison.

PEN, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders are among those who have condemned her treatment.

“Pham Doan Trang has galvanised the Vietnamese people through her writings on democracy, human rights, environmental degradation, and women’s empowerment,” PEN CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement on Thursday.

“The Vietnamese government has persecuted and jailed Trang in an effort to still her voice.

“She has sacrificed her health and freedom in the pursuit of justice.

“Despite the government’s crackdown on dissent and activism, her powerful words continue to inspire people across Vietnam and throughout the world.”

Previous Freedom to Write winners include Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi and Ukrainian freelance journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko.

Trang’s lawyer, Dang Dinh Manh, and friend Quynh-Vi Tran, co-founder and executive director of Legal Initiatives for Vietnam, will accept the award on her behalf during PEN’s annual gala on May 16.

Other honourees will include musician Paul Simon and Dow Jones CEO Almar Latour. — AP

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