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‘Mother Mushroom’ to Receive Press Freedom Award

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who goes by the pen name Mother Mushroom, speaks with a reporter during a video conference on her laptop computer in Houston, Texas, October 19, 2018.
'Mother Mushroom' to Receive Press Freedom Award
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The Vietnamese blogger known as “Mother Mushroom” will be honored with an International Press Freedom Award on November 20 in New York City.

Others who will receive awards are Amal Khalifa Idris Habbani of Sudan, Venezuala’s Luz Mely Reyes, and Anastasiya Stanko of Ukraine.

The Committee to Protect Journalists announced the award winners last June.

Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh wrote under the name “Mẹ Nấm,” or Mother Mushroom. She was serving a 10-year sentence for “propaganda against the state” when, in 2017, she received an International Women of Courage Award from American first lady Melania Trump.

Quỳnh was suddenly released from prison in October. She then left Vietnam and went to Houston, in the American state of Texas.

FILE - Mẹ Nấm, Mother Mushroom, with her two children in an undated photo.
FILE - Mẹ Nấm, Mother Mushroom, with her two children in an undated photo.

The blogger told VOA that it was difficult to accept the offer of her prison release from the Vietnamese government. She said the offer was made on the condition that she leave Vietnam. She thought of her young children whom she had not seen for more than two years.

Quỳnh was reunited with her two children on the flight from Vietnam.

Quỳnh told VOA she began blogging in 2006 while she was pregnant with her daughter. She said, “When I went to a hospital for a check-up, I started to notice that a lot of people around me - who were poor - did not get the same quality of service from medical professionals. And I asked myself, ‘How could I not have seen the unfairness that was happening around me like that?’”

On her blog, she wrote about social injustice, environmental issues and the territorial dispute between China and Vietnam over the Spratly Islands. She also helped form the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, a group of independent journalists who support press freedom in Vietnam.

FILE - Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, center, stands trial in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, Vietnam.
FILE - Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, center, stands trial in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, Vietnam.

Quỳnh was first detained in 2009 for writing about the Vietnamese government land confiscation to support a Chinese mining project. She said, “They were afraid that the bilateral government relation could be affected when people like me speak out against the projects.”

At first, Quỳnh did not consider herself to be a member of the press. She said, “I was just exercising my rights to speak for myself, but then they arrested me, and they tried to stop me from blogging, and that was when I realized that I am now an activist for freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

In her first few weeks of freedom, Quỳnh has spent time with her two children and her mother. But she plans to start writing again soon.

She said, “I want to continue my blogging and I want to take back my Facebook account [that was blocked in Vietnam] so that I can continue sharing with other people my thoughts and what I aspire to do.”

I'm Anna Matteo.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with additional materials from VOA's Tra Mi and Ten Soksreinith. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

confiscation - n. the act of taking something away from someone to enforce a rule or law

bilateral - adj. involving two groups or two countries