Vietnamese blogger and former political prisoner Pham Thanh Nghien has been named a finalist for the Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk, honoring activists who jeopardize their own safety to benefit their communities.
Nghien, who is known for her work publicizing violations against and defending the rights of relatives of fishermen killed by Chinese patrols in the South China Sea, was one of five finalists selected for the 2017 award, Ireland-based Front Line Defenders said in a statement.
Also selected were Ukrainian rights lawyer Emil Kurbedinov, South African land and environment campaigner Nonhle Mbuthuma, imprisoned Kuwaiti minority activist Abdulhakim Al Fadhli and Nicaraguan anti-canal crusader Francisca Ramírez Torres.
“These five defenders demonstrate the tenacity and will to persist in the face of severe, often life threatening risks,” the statement said, citing executive director of Front Line Defenders Andrew Anderson as he announced the finalists in Dublin on March 30.
“Human rights defenders tell us that international visibility is vital to their work, particularly as governments and corporations work to defame, slander, and delegitimize their peaceful struggle for rights … Their struggle has not gone unnoticed and we in Ireland support their fight for rights.”
The 2017 finalists and their families have faced attacks, defamation campaigns, legal harassment, death threats, prison sentences, and intimidation, according to Front Line Defenders, which works to promote the visibility and protection of activists it says are critical to rights movements in their countries and communities.
A recipient of the 2009 Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammet award for writers targeted with political persecution, Nghien was arrested in August that year and sentenced in 2010 to a four-year prison term, followed by three years’ probation under the charge of conducting propaganda against the state.
Her home has since been raided, she has been blocked from attending medical appointments, had a padlock placed on her door from the outside, and been refused a marriage certificate.
During her probation, Nghien spearheaded several rights campaigns and co-founded the Vietnamese Bloggers’ Network along with jailed blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh—also known as Mother Mushroom (Me Nam). On Wednesday, Quynh was honored in absentia by the U.S. Department of State with the International Women of Courage Award for her work highlighting rights abuses in Vietnam.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service Friday, Nghien’s friend and fellow activist Kim Chi said that despite the blogger’s petite size, she is “very brave and always willing” to speak out about her beliefs, noting that she had even suffered a severe beating by police in 2015 that left her covered in bruises.
“Today, she and her husband continue to be harassed [by the government], but she continues to write important articles that everybody should read,” Chi said.
“She has never stopped working for noble causes.”
The recipient of the 2017 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk will be announced at a ceremony in Dublin on May 26.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.