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Eight Vietnamese Writers Receive Prestigious Human Rights Prize

vietamreview, Posted: Jul 29, 2008

NEW YORK Eight Vietnamese writers are among a diverse group of 34 writers from 19 countries to receive Hellman/Hammett awards this year in recognition of the courage they showed when facing political persecution.

The Hellman/Hammett awards, administered by Human Rights Watch, are given annually to writers who have been targets of political persecution or human rights abuses. The grant program began in 1989 when the American playwright Lillian Hellman willed that her estate be used to assist writers in financial need as a result of expressing their views.

This year's prize winners from Vietnam include Father Nguyen Van Ly, one of the leaders of the democracy movement in Vietnam. He has been repeatedly imprisoned during the last 30 years for his written appeals calling for human rights, religious freedom and freedom of expression. At his most recent trial in March 2007, in which he was sentenced to another eight years in prison, police placed their hands over Father Ly's mouth to prevent him from speaking.

"The Vietnamese phrase for censorship, 'bich mien,' means to cover the mouth," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "There is no stronger image of the dismal state of freedom of expression in Vietnam today than the photograph of police physically muzzling Father Ly during his trial."

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