The Freedom for Vietnam Starts with Freedom for Pham Doan Trang

The Freedom for Vietnam Starts with Freedom for Pham Doan Trang

Today, May 27, Pham Doan Trang celebrates her 46th birthday in prison, her third one behind bars. According to PEN America’s latest report, she is among 19 writers incarcerated in Vietnam for their writings.

PEN America named Vietnam the third biggest jailer of writers in 2024. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named Vietnam the fifth jailer of journalists worldwide in 2024. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) listed Vietnam lower than China and Myanmar in its 2024 World Press Freedom Index. The overall picture of freedom of expression in Vietnam has become more depressed every year in the last decade. The penal codes, such as Article 117, for spreading propaganda against the state, and Article 331, abuse of democratic freedoms, are routinely used against writers, journalists, dissidents, and even regular Vietnamese. 

While Vietnam has recently strengthened its strategic partnership with the U.S., Australia, and Japan, the above-mentioned penal codes in its criminal justice system belong to the Cold War. In this globalized era, the language used to criminally charge people’s thoughts and opinions under these penal codes should have been repealed. If Vietnam wants to be a global partner with many countries in the West, it needs to distance itself from the Stalinistic criminal defamation laws. To start, Vietnam should release the journalists and writers from its prisons, and Pham Doan Trang should be one of the first.

Pham Doan Trang was arrested on Oct. 6, 2020, hours after the annual U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialog was held in Hanoi. Her arrest and imprisonment that year were blatant attempts to silence her powerful voice. Despite international condemnation, she continues to endure harsh conditions, her health deteriorating with each passing day while she’s in confinement. As a current member of the Human Rights Council, Vietnam must release this year's recipient of the PEN America Barbey’s Freedom to Write Award, the laureate of the 2022 International Press Freedom Award of CPJ, and the RSF Press Freedom Prize 2019. 

Doan Trang remains imprisoned under harsh conditions for her steadfast commitment to freedom and democracy. Despite facing immense personal risk, Doan Trang chose to stay in Vietnam and fight for the rights of her fellow citizens rather than seek asylum abroad. Her arrest in 2020 and nine-year prison sentence in 2021 on charges of "spreading anti-state propaganda" have only highlighted her unyielding dedication to human rights and free expression.

Doan Trang’s work, which includes founding the online magazines The Vietnamese Magazine and Luat Khoa Magazine, has been instrumental in educating and empowering Vietnamese citizens about their rights. 

We now call on people worldwide to support Pham Doan Trang by joining a campaign #WritetoTrang to write letters and postcards to her. Your words of solidarity can demonstrate global support for her cause. Your messages will also provide much-needed encouragement and show Doan Trang that the world has not forgotten her. Writing to her can also pressure the Vietnamese authorities to secure her release.

Please send your letters to:

Pham Doan Trang

An Phuoc Prison

An Thai Commune

Phu Giao District

Binh Duong Province


You can also publish your letters online using #WritetoTrang. Please visit the Legal Initiatives for Vietnam (LIV) website for more information on participating in this campaign and staying updated on Trang’s situation. Your support is crucial in our collective effort to stand against oppression and advocate for a free and democratic Vietnam​​.

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