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The International Publishers Association (IPA) has condemned the nine-year sentence given to Vietnamese author and publisher Pham Doan Trang for disseminating anti-state propaganda.

José Borghino, IPA Secretary General, said: “All publicly available information about this case, the charges and the process make it impossible to see this as anything but a show trial. The International Publishers Association commends Pham Doan Trang for her bravery in the face of this persecution which can only be intended to intimidate others into silence.”

In a powerful statement given to her family before her trial, Trang said: ‘In a democratic society, if a citizen writes something or responds to interview questions from foreign journalists regarding matters the government doesn’t want to hear, what would be the civilized response? The most civilized response would be for the government to do nothing because a civilized person knows how to respect the opinions and interests of others.

‘In a less fortunate situation, if a government has authoritarian tendencies and finds what the citizen says unacceptable, then it could simply write books or articles to rebut that citizen, or even boldly reach out to the foreign press to arrange an interview in which a government representative expresses his/her viewpoint or responds to the citizen in-kind. But the Socialist Republic of Vietnam does none of this. Instead, it chooses to respond in a more vile, foolish, and heinous manner, imprisoning its citizens simply because they write works or respond to interviews with foreign journalists.’

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders have all spoken out about her detention.  Trang received  the 2020 IPA Prix Voltaire on behalf of Liberal Publishing House.  Not for the first time, the IPA’s stance puts some of its members in a difficult position.  The governments of China and Saudi Arabia have a similarly harsh and undemocratic response to dissent as that of Vietnam.  Their respective trade bodies who are full members of the IPA may distance themselves from the organisation’s overall stance on this particular issue.