Professor Hoat, who is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence for his work with the pro-democracy newsletter “Dien Dan Tu Do” (Freedom Forum), has spent much of the past three decades in “re-education camps” and prisons simply for calling for greater civil rights and democratic reform in Vietnam. He continues to appeal for these changes despite his imprisonment.
The Golden Pen Award was presented at the opening of WAN’s 51st annual World Newspaper Congress and 5th World Editors Forum. It was received by Professor Hoat’s wife, Tran Thi Thuc, who said:
“All that Doan Viet Hoat did was to write several articles calling for freedom of expression, speech, thinking for oneself, and exercising one’s basic human rights. Unfortunately, despite the fact that there are laws in the book in Vietnam to honour these basic rights, these laws are only there merely as tokens.”
“In your upcoming dialogues with the Vietnamese government, please ask that they adhere to their own laws. And therefore, I request that Doan Viet Hoat
and all other journalists be released immediately and unconditionally,” she said.
Doan Viet Hoat was first arrested in 1976 when, as a professor of English literature, he was accused of being a “lackey of American imperialism” for
calling for greater civil liberties in post-war Vietnam. He spent 12 years in “re-education” camps, without trial, with only one visit a year from his family.
He had barely been released when he created his small underground magazine to renew his calls for greater freedom of expression. He was arrested again in 1990, imprisoned for 28 months without charge, and sentenced to a 20-year term for publishing “anti-communist” articles. The term was reduced to 15 years on appeal.
In presenting the award, the First Vice President of WAN, Bengt Braun, said: “The Vietnamese government remains deaf to the appeals for democracy and respect for human rights of Mr. Hoat and others. Despite continuing economic liberalization, the Communist Party still controls and censors newspapers and magazines, owns and operates electronic media and routinely blocks broadcasts from abroad. The press is expected to promote the virtues of socialism and the government’s successes. At least five journalists are in prison, and several others are under arrest.”