Birth date: September 15, 1968
Blog Site: CÔNG LÝ và SỰ THẬT/Justice and Truth http://conglysuthat.blogspot.com/
Date of arrest: September 5, 2011 at her house 84D or Tran Quoc Toan, Ward 8, District 3 in Ho Chi Minh City
Sentence: Detained without trial
Current location: Phan Dang Luu Prison, Saigon
Ta Phong Tan, a former police officer and communist party member, is a prolific blogger with more than 700 articles to her name. She began her writing career as a freelance journalist in 2004 and since then her articles have appeared widely online. With her knowledge and experience of police work, she provides insightful observations about widespread abuse of power by the security police. She is a recipient of Human Rights Watch’s Hellman/Hammett award. She is a member of the Liberal Catholic Reporters Club. In June 2011, Ta Phong Tan sent letters to the ambassador to the United States and European Union official about being harassed in Vietnam.
Tạ Phong Tần, 43 years old, a former police officer and communist party member, is one of Vietnam’s most prolific bloggers with more than 700 articles to her name. She began her writing career as a freelance journalist in 2004 for various mainstream Vietnamese newspapers and for the BBC’s Vietnamese service. She belongs to outlawed Free Journalist Club, a network they founded together with dissident journalists Nguyễn Văn Hải (blogger Điếu Cầy) and Phan Thanh Hải (blogger Anh Ba Sàigòn). Tần wrote for the Religious Freedom Reporter (Nhà Báo Tự Do Công Giáo) blog and her own blog Justice and Truth (Công Lý và Sự Thật), where she covered social justice issues, including corruption. With her knowledge and experience of police work, she provides insightful observations about the widespread abuse of power by security police. She was a recipient of Human Rights’ Watch’s prestigious Hellman/Hammett award in 201110.
Tần was arrested on the morning of September 5, 2011 at her home in Saigon’s District 3. Her landlady told the BBC she found Tần’s home locked and sealed. She entered anway and found many uniformed and plainclothed officers surrounding her. They had gone through and destroyed or sealed Tần’s belongings. Together with journalists and bloggers Nguyễn Văn Hải and Phan Thanh Hải, Tần is charged with violating Article 88 of the penal code. The three are accused of spreading anti-government propaganda, based on more than 421 posts on their blogs that “distorted and opposed the State,” Vietnamese media reported8,9. Tần has been detained to this date without a trial date at Phan Đăng Luư Prison, in Ho Chi Minh City. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison, news reports say.
It was not the first time Tần has been arrested or harrassed. Over the past several years and as a result of her writings, she has been repeatedly detained and interrogated about her work as a writer and her overseas associations.11 During one epside with local police, she refused food from the security authorities during four days of interrogation as a means to protest what she deemed as wrongful treatment.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have spoken out on Tần’s behalf, most recently in April 2012, calling for her immediate release.
“What do the authorities have to fear from a handful of bloggers, equipped with only personal cameras and computers, and why are they so determined to persecute them?” Human Rights Watch’s Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson asked. “Locking up bloggers does nothing to suppress or solve the controversies they reported. The authorities have not just violated the rights of these authors, but of their readers as well,” he said.
Excerpt from Tạ Phong Tần’s blog:
“I am a free journalist. I write about what I see and hear. I comment on social issues as I understand them. I expose the victimization of people like myself and my friends by the State of Vietnam. I defend people without power who suffer injustice. But the Vietnamese state wants to silence me. Their cadres told me I was not allowed to write about anything that touches the state. The Vietnamese state is controlling every aspect of Vietnamese society. Anything I wrote can be interpreted as touching upon the state. An article I posted on my blog which retold a dream I had (‘Last night I dreamt of meeting the old Marx’) was accused of ‘distortion.’ This Vietnamese state even controls people’s dreams. The people only have the rights to dream as they are told.” (Tạ Phong Tần, “I am facing a plot [against me],” April 4, 2010.)