US First Lady Jill Biden leads the recognition for the 12 recipient of the 2022 International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award.  Award-winning Vietnamese journalist and human rights defender Pham Doan Trang is one of the honorees.  She did not make an appearance on the online awards ceremony.  Currently, she is now serving a 9-year sentence for 'Propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.'


The United States honored 12 women from Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Vietnam and other countries, with the State Department saying they have demonstrated leadership and a willingness to sacrifice for others at an "International Women of Courage Award" ceremony Monday in Washington.

This year's honorees include Syeda Rizwana Hasan, an environmental lawyer from Bangladesh; Simone Sibilio do Nascimento, one of Brazil's most prominent prosecutors; Ei Thinzar Maung, Myanmar's pro-democracy opposition National Unity Government Deputy Minister for Women, Youths, and Children Affairs; Josefina Klinger Zúñiga, a human rights and environmental defender from Colombia; Taif Sami Mohammed, Iraq's deputy finance minister known for fighting corruption; Facia Boyenoh Harris, who advocates for women's rights and speaks out against gender-based violence in Liberia; Libya's first woman foreign minister, Najla Mangoush; Moldova's parliament member Doina Gherman, who promotes women's inclusion; transgender activist Bhumika Shrestha who is from Nepal; Carmen Gheorghe, who promotes women's rights in Romania; Roegchanda Pascoe, a crime prevention activist from South Africa; and jailed Vietnamese journalist Phạm Đoan Trang.

Jailed Vietnamese journalist absent in virtual ceremony

Phạm Đoan Trang did not attend Monday's virtual award ceremony, since she is currently in prison.

Pham Doan Trang is seen as a leading advocate for human rights, rule of law, and the inclusion of all voices in political spaces in Vietnam. She was sentenced to nine years in prison on Dec. 14, 2021, for "making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam," according to Amnesty International.

"We condemn her unjust imprisonment. We call for her immediate release," said Secretary of State Antony Blinken during Monday's ceremony.

Pham Chinh Truc is Pham Doan Trang's brother. He attended the trial in December with their 81-year-old mother. Pham Chinh Truc told VOA Vietnamese he raised objections at the hearing and called the verdict "completely absurd and unacceptable."

"Trang was convicted under Article 88 'Propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,'" he said in the VOA interview. "As far as I know, this article has been criticized by many individuals, social organizations, and even the United Nations, who have asked the Vietnamese government to revoke this law because it is too vague. Its boundaries are not clear, but it has been used to arrest many people who have views that are contrary to the views held by the party and state."

Phạm Đoan Trang was a journalist with government media before leaving to write independently on democracy and free elections, according to advocacy group The 88 Project.

The United States values its comprehensive partnership with Vietnam but believes firmly that "in order for this country to thrive, it needs to embrace the openness, transparency, inclusion, and respect for the rights of all of its citizens that Phạm Đoan Trang has relentlessly sought through her writing and advocacy," said U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper in a pre-taped message.