37 Writers from 19 Countries Receive Hellman/Hammett Grants
October 11, 2009
(New York) – Human Rights Watch announced today that 37 writers from 19 countries have received the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award in recognition of their commitment to free expression and their courage in the face of political persecution.
All are writers and activists whose work and activities have been suppressed. Beyond what they experienced themselves, they represent numerous other writers and journalists whose personal and professional lives have been disrupted as a result of repressive government policies governing speech and publications.
The Hellman/Hammett grants are administered by Human Rights Watch and given annually to writers around the world who have been targets of political persecution. The grant program began in 1989 when the American playwright Lillian Hellman stipulated in her will that her estate should be used to assist writers in financial need as a result of expressing their views.
“The Hellman/Hammett grants aim to help writers who dare to express ideas that criticize official public policy or people in power” said Marcia Allina, who coordinates the Hellman/Hammett grant program.
Governments have used military and presidential decrees, criminal charges, libel, and sedition laws to silence this year’s Hellman/Hammett awardees. They have been harassed, assaulted, indicted, jailed on trumped-up charges, or tortured merely for providing information from nongovernmental sources. In addition to those who are directly targeted, many others are forced to practice self-censorship.
Hellman was prompted by the persecution that she and her longtime companion, the novelist Dashiell Hammett, experienced during the 1950′s anti-communist hysteria in the US when both were questioned by US congressional committees about their political beliefs and affiliations. Hellman suffered professionally and had trouble finding work. Hammett spent time in prison.
In 1989, the executors of Ms. Hellman’s estate asked Human Rights Watch to devise a program to help writers who were targeted for expressing views that their government oppose, for criticizing government officials or actions, or for writing about things that their governments did not want reported.
Over the past 20 years, more than 700 writers from 91 countries have received Hellman/Hammett grants that give a maximum of $10,000, totaling more than $3 million. The program also gives small emergency grants to writers who have an urgent need to leave their country or who need immediate medical treatment after serving prison terms or enduring torture.
Of this year’s 37 recipients, six are from China, Iran, and Vietnam. Eighteen of the 37 asked to remain anonymous because of possible continuing danger to them and their families. Among them are writers from Burma, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.
Short biographies of those who can be safely publicized follow.
(I just list the Vietnamese dissidents here. Click on the source link for the rest.)
Nguyen Hoang Hai, alias Dieu Cay (Vietnam), is a prominent blogger imprisoned for hard-hitting postings that called for democracy and an end to corruption in Vietnam.
He is a former soldier who, under the pen name of Dieu Cay (“the Peasant Water Pipe”), also wrote blogs that criticized Vietnam’s accommodationist policies to its northern neighbor, China. In 2006, he was one of the founding members of the Club of Free Journalists. Dieu Cay was placed under police surveillance in early 2008, prior to anti-China protests during the Olympic Torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City. He was arrested on April 19, 2008, and charged with tax fraud, widely seen as a baseless pretext to punish him for his critical blogs and political activities. He was held until his trial in September 2008, when he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Initially detained in Chi Hoa prison in Ho Chi Minh City, he was reportedly transferred to Cai Tau prison in Ca Mau province in early 2009.
Nguyen Thuong Long (Vietnam), a respected secondary school superintendent and teacher, has emerged as a leading dissident writer in Vietnam since his retirement in 2007.
While superintendent, he was known for his articles in state newspapers and educational journals critiquing the Vietnamese educational system. He wrote about endemic corruption in the system, including widespread cheating on exams and the buying and selling of educational posts. In 2001, he presented a hard-hitting paper denouncing the flaws in Vietnam’s educational system at an annual teachers’ conference in Ha Tay. Although his paper was widely reprinted in government journals and newspapers and posted online, he was suspended for five years. In 2007, convinced that it was useless to achieve reform from inside, he retired from teaching and joined the board of editors of To Quoc (Fatherland), a dissident review. Since joining To Quoc, he has been repeatedly harassed, detained, interrogated, and held under house arrest.
Pham Thanh Nghien (Vietnam), a gifted writer and democracy activist, has been detained without trial since her arrest a year ago.
In 2007, when the wool company where she worked went bankrupt, Pham Thanh Nghien started advocating on behalf of landless farmers and writing articles calling for human rights and democracy. Authorities barred her from attending the trial of her close friend, democracy campaigner Le Thi Cong Nhan, and she has been repeatedly harassed by the police, who regularly bring her in for aggressive questioning. In June 2008, she was detained after co-signing a letter to the Public Security Ministry that requested authorization to organize a peaceful demonstration against corruption. A few days later, she was attacked and beaten by hooligans, who threatened her life if she continued “hostile actions” against the state. She was arrested in September 2008 and is currently detained at Thanh Liet (B-14) detention center in Hanoi.
Thich Thien Minh (Vietnam), a Buddhist monk from Bac Lieu province, was jailed for protesting the government’s religious intolerance.
He spent 26 years in prison (1976-2005), including Xuan Phuoc and Xuan Loc prisons, where he suffered severe torture. Since his release, he has not been allowed to re-enter his pagoda. He remains under house arrest and has been harassed for forming an association of former religious and political prisoners. Nevertheless, he has become a leading spokesperson for the human treatment of prisoners. Thich Thien Minh’s 2007 memoir about his prison experience provides a rare and detailed look at conditions in Vietnamese prisons and re-educations camps.
Tran Anh Kim, also known as Tran Ngoc Kim (Vietnam), a former lieutenant colonel and former deputy political commissar in the Vietnamese Peoples’ Army, is currently waiting trial for his pro-democracy writings and activities.
Tran Anh Kim was known for circulating petitions protesting injustice and corruption in the Vietnamese Communist Party. In 1991, in an effort to silence him before the 7th Party Congress, he was arrested and accused of “abuse of power to steal public wealth.” After the Congress he was released without trial and restored to his army post. He was arrested again in 1994, sentenced to two years in prison and downgraded to second-class soldier. He was released after one year and again began to denounce the accusations against him. In 1997, in an apparent attempt at reconciliation, he was promoted to major. But he stubbornly continued to demand justice and was expelled from the army, losing all rights, including his pension. In 2006, he became known as a dissident writer, having joined the pro-democracy movement known as Block 8406, named after the April 8, 2006 founding date. He also served on the editorial board of the bi-weekly, To Quoc. On July 6, 2009, he was arrested for connections to the banned Democratic Party of Vietnam and charged with disseminating anti-government propaganda under article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code.
Vi Cuc Hoi (Vietnam), a member of the Tay ethnic group from northern Lang Son province and former high-ranking district party cadre, was expelled from the Vietnamese Communist Party and placed under house arrest for his democracy writings.
Vi Cuc Hoi was born into a communist family and holds degrees in politics, economics, and law. He joined the party in 1980, quickly rising to prestigious positions in his district. In 2006, he began writing articles criticizing the party and calling for democratic reforms – first under pen names, and after he was expelled from the party in 2007, under his own name. In March 2007, when it became known that he was author of numerous dissident texts, he was detained for a week, expelled from the party, and dismissed from his positions. Since then he has been under house arrest, with police stationed in front of his house to threaten and discourage people from visiting him. He is regularly brought to police headquarters for interrogation and has twice been denounced at public meetings. His wife, a primary school teacher, has also been expelled from the party for refusing to denounce him.
6 người nhận giải của tổ chức nhân quyền
Sáu cây bút ở Việt Nam được tổ chức theo dõi nhân quyền Human Rights Watch (HRW) trao giải thưởng Hellman/Hammett năm nay.
Đó là nhà báo tự do Nguyễn Văn Hải tức Hoàng Hải (blogger Điếu Cày), nhà giáo Nguyễn Thượng Long, cô Phạm Thanh Nghiên, thượng tọa Thích Thiện Minh, cựu chiến binh Trần Anh Kim và ông Vi Đức Hồi.
Trong thông cáo ra tại New York hôm 13/10, HRW nói giải thưởng này là để “tôn vinh cam kết của họ đối với quyền tự do ngôn luận và sự dũng cảm của họ trước sự truy bức về chính trị.”
Thông cáo viết:”Tất cả những người này đều là các cây bút và nhà tranh đấu mà công việc và hoạt động của họ đã bị đàn áp.”
“Ngoài các trải nghiệm cá nhân, họ còn đại diện cho các cây viết và nhà báo khác, mà cuộc sống và sự nghiệp bị gián đoạn vì các chính sách kiểm soát ngôn luận và các ấn phẩm của chính phủ.”
Giải thưởng Hellman/Hammett hàng năm được Human Rights Watch trao cho các nhân sỹ quốc tế, bắt đầu từ 1989, tới nay đã gần 700 nhân vật được nhận giải. Nó đi kèm phần thưởng tài chính dưới 10.000 Mỹ kim.
Giải thưởng này mang tên của kịch sỹ cánh tả Mỹ Lillian Hellman và nhà văn Dashiel Hammet, những người từng bị truy bức về chính trị trong những năm 1950 tại Hoa Kỳ vì bị cho là cộng sản.
Chính phủ Việt Nam trong quá khứ đã từng lên tiếng chỉ trích việc trao giải Hellman/Hammett của HRW cho các nhân vật ở Việt Nam, mà họ cho là “dựa trên các thông tin sai lệch”.
Bà Elaine Pearson, phó giám đốc khu vực châu Á của HRW, nói: “Việc vinh danh các cây bút này cũng giúp làm sáng tỏ một nước Việt Nam mà nhiều người trên thế giới không biết.”
Bà cáo buộc: “Đây là nơi mà chính phủ trấn áp mạnh mẽ những người bất đồng chính kiến, tự do ngôn luận, báo chí độc lập và quyền tiếp cận mạng internet; chính phủ làm tất cả những gì có thể để bịt miệng các chỉ trích gia.”
Trong số sáu vị nhận giải thưởng năm nay, cô Phạm Thanh Nghiên, 33 tuổi, và ông Trần Anh Kim, 61 tuổi, hiện còn đang bị giam giữ chưa được xét xử.
Cô Nghiên bị bắt từ tháng Chín 2008 còn ông Kim bị bắt hồi tháng Bảy năm nay.
Blogger Điếu Cày, 57 tuổi, thì hiện đang thi hành án tù hai năm rưỡi vì tội trốn thuế.
Thượng tọa Thích Thiện Minh, 56 tuổi, đã ngồi tù 26 năm từ 1976-2005 vì chống đối nhà nước. HRW nói hiện ông vẫn bị quản chế, giống nhà giáo Nguyễn Thượng Long và ông Vi Đức Hồi.
Năm nay, ngoài sáu người Việt, HRW còn trao giải cho 31 nhân vật từ Trung Quốc, Iran, Miến Điện, Colombia , Ai Cập, Eritrea , Gambia , Iraq , Bắc Triều Tiên, Pakistan , Nga , Rwanda , Sri Lanka , Syria , Tây Tạng, Thổ Nhĩ Kỳ, Tunisia , và Zimbabwe .
Tags: blogger, Dieu Cay, dissident writer, Hammett Grants, Hellman, Ho Chi Minh City, Human Rights Watch, Nguyen Hoang Hai, Nguyen Thuong Long, Pham Thanh Nghien, Thich Thien Minh, Tran Anh Kim, Tran Ngoc Kim, Vi Cuc Hoi, Vietnam