Deutsche Welle (DW) narrates the challenges faced by the three recipients of the RSF 2019 Press Freedom Prize.  

Vietnamese blogger and journalist Pham Doan Trang was awarded The Prize for Impact but missed the award ceremony because of harassment and threats of imprisonment by the authorities.  She was represented by Legal Initiatives for VIETNAM co-founder Trinh Huu Long who, together with Pham Doan Trang and several other free press advocates established two online magazines - Luật Khoa and The Vietnamese.


Only Muscat was able to appear in person to collect her "Prize for Independence." Vietnamese blogger Pham Doan Trang, who won the "Prize for Impact," and Saudi Arabian women's rights activist Eman al-Nafjan, winner of the "Prize for Courage," both remain barred from leaving their countries, their websites blocked, and under constant threat of detention and harassment.

Both women were represented by friends who have moved to freer countries, and who are also committed to the struggle for press freedom. Trang sent Huu Long Trinh, a Taipei-based journalist who co-founded the civil society organization Legal Initiatives for Vietnam (LIV), while al-Nafjan was represented by her former student Omaima al-Najjar, who, following her former teacher's example, started her own blog about Saudi women's rights from her home in Italy.

Saudi Arabia and Vietnam: different regimes, same repression

The Vietnamese regime is not religious, but hardly less repressive. Vietnam is still a communist country dominated by a single political party that allows no private, independent media at all.

For that reason, LIV has set up two magazines: Luat Khoa, which focuses on political and legal issues, and the English-language The Vietnamese, while also training and providing resources to journalists in Vietnam to produce their own work. "What we're trying to do is to make free press a reality in Vietnam," Huu Long Trinh told DW.

Trinh said Trang is helping to produce these magazines in the face of extreme government harassment: "She's been detained by police countless times, beaten up a few times," he said. "She's not even allowed to stay in one place for more than a week. She has to move to different places every one or two weeks. So what I'm trying to do now is have her be recognized internationally more, so that it could be safer for her at home."