Luat Khoa and The Vietnamese co-founder Pham Doan Trang arrested for "anti-state propaganda" has spent a year in detention with no trial date in sight.  Ironically, the acclaimed journalist and human rights defender's arrest came a day after the 24th annual US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.


Exactly a year ago, on October 6, 2020, officials of the Vietnamese and US governments met online for the 24th annual US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue. Officials discussed freedom of religion, the rule of law, bilateral cooperation, workers’ rights, and freedom of expression during the three-hour virtual session.

Yet just hours after the conclusion of the meeting, police in Ho Chi Minh City arrested award-winning journalist, author and human-rights activist Pham Doan Trang, who now faces up to 20 years in prison after being charged with spreading information “opposing the state.”

If that charge sounds unclear, that’s because it is. Article 117, the law under which Trang was charged, is so poorly defined that it could encapsulate virtually any criticism of the ruling Communist Party.

Trang, a former journalist for state media, is a founder of Luat Khoa and The Vietnamese, which provide independent online analysis of social, political and legal issues in Vietnam. Both sites are blocked by censors. Little surprise, then, that Freedom House rated Vietnam as “not free” in its most recent annual report on Internet freedom.

Trang has also been prevented from printing books since 2015. Undeterred, she has published numerous free-to-access books and handbooks online. These include “Politics of a Police State,” “On Non-Violent Resistant Techniques,” and “Politics for the Masses.”

Her work has not gone unrecognized. Reporters Without Borders awarded her the Press Freedom Prize for Impact in 2019.