Who is Vietnam's Mother Mushroom? Blogger Honored by Melania Trump Jailed for Ten Years

Blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who goes by the name Mother Mushroom and has regularly attacked the Vietnamese government in interviews and on Facebook, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison..

The 37-year-old was found guilty of “distorting government policies" and defaming the Communist regime.

Quynh, a single mother of two, had given interviews to Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, her lawyer Vo An Don said. She founded a network of bloggers in her homeland and has written about deaths in police custody, environmental disasters and human rights.

She received the Woman of Courage award at the U.S. State Department in March this year, presented by Melania Trump. Vietnam said the award “was not appropriate and of no benefit to the development of the relations between the two countries”, the Guardian reported.

Commenting on the case during a daily press briefing at the State Department, Heather Nauert, said: “The United States calls on Vietnam to release Mother Mushroom and all other prisoners of conscience immediately, and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and assemble peacefully without fear of retribution.” 

“The scandal here is not what Mother Mushroom said, but Hanoi’s stubborn refusal to repeal draconian, rights-abusing laws that punish peaceful dissent and tarnish Vietnam’s international reputation,” Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, told the Guardian.

In 2014, Vietnam introduced ‘Decree 174’ that introduced tough punishments for blogs and social media, and increased government powers to censor internet usage as they wished.

Last year, Nguyen Nuu Vinh, another Vietnamese blogger, was arrested and put on trial for writing about social and political issues in Vietnam.

Vinh, who blogged under the name Ahn Ba Sam, started his career as a police officer and was the son of a former Vietnamese government minister. After his blogs attracted the attention of authorities, he was held in prison for a year before being put on trial.

According to Human Rights Watch World Watch Report published in 2016, “the government of Vietnam continued to crack down on independent writers, bloggers, and rights activists deemed threatening to Communist Party rule.”

“Vietnam tried to minimize political trials and convictions in 2015 to gain favor during the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, but repression against activists remained firm, with beatings increasing,” said Brad Adams, Asia director.

In 2016, the police general Tran Dai Quang said that the government had “received, arrested, and dealt with cases involving 2,680 people who violated national security.” According to Human Rights Watch, at least 45 bloggers and rights activists were assaulted by plain-clothes government agents in 2015.

Vietnam denies jailing political prisoners without fair trial and at a news briefing regarding Quynh foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang tried to justify their decision. the Guardian reported.

“Like other countries in the world, in Vietnam, all law-violating acts must be strictly dealt with in accordance with the regulations of Vietnamese law," she said.