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(London, 2 February 2014) News that journalist Pham Chi Dung has been banned from travelling to the UN human rights review of Vietnam to be held in Geneva on Wednesday highlights the ongoing severe restrictions on freedom of expression in the country, PEN International said today. Pham was due to conduct advocacy with PEN International at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Vietnam on 5 February to draw attention to the parlous state of freedom of expression in the country.

‘In preventing a well-known journalist from travelling to the UN, Vietnam breaks the very promises it made in order to secure its seat on the UN Human Rights Council,’ said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

‘Less than three months ago, Vietnam promised to uphold the human rights of its citizens, in order to be elected onto the Council. Preventing activists from travelling is a violation of their human rights, and this latest incident is part of a recent wave of arrests and harassment of dissident journalists and activists.’

On 1 February, Pham was stopped in Hanoi Airport on route to Geneva and his passport was taken away from him and he was ordered to return to his home town of Ho Chi Minh City for interrogation.

PEN International was sponsoring Pham to attend and observe the UPR session on Vietnam and to speak about the situation of freedom of expression in the country. PEN International, along with English PEN, ARTICLE 19 and Access, submitted a shadow report on freedom of expression ahead of the UPR and will be conducting advocacy in Geneva during the review.
‘We urge Vietnamese authorities to immediately lift all travel bans imposed on peaceful writers and activists,’ said Botsford Fraser. ‘And the Human Rights Council must take meaningful steps to ensure that members fulfil their election promises and uphold human rights, in particular freedom of expression, in their countries.’

A journalist whose work has appeared in prominent publications, including the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, Pham is one of numerous prominent activists who have been prevented from travelling to Geneva to speak about the situation in the country as it undergoes its human rights review.

Among others barred from attending the review were civil society leaders and relatives of political prisoners planning to speak at side events during the UPR hearings. Some have not been able to obtain travel documents, while others were told by the Ministry of Public Security that they may not go to Geneva.

In July 2012, Pham was arrested and held incommunicado for a month, accused of conspiring with “foreign reactionaries.” He publically resigned from the Communist Party in December 2013 after 20 years of membership, calling for political freedom.

PEN International was sponsoring Pham to attend and observe the UPR session on Vietnam and to speak about the situation of freedom of expression in the country. PEN International, along with English PEN, ARTICLE 19 and Access, submitted a shadow report on freedom of expression ahead of the UPR and will be conducting advocacy in Geneva during the review.

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Notes to Editors:

•For the shadow report submitted to the UNHRC by the coalition, please click here.
•For media interviews with PEN International, please contact Sarah Clarke, International Policy and Advocacy Officer, sarah.clarke@pen-international.org or call +44 (7575) 030028.

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