As I post pearls of wisdom on my blog, including righteous criticism about this country’s follies, I rarely stop to think how fortunate I am to be able to do so freely and fearlessly. How fortunate I am to be doing it in this country.
Every once in a while I get a reminder. Like this week when I read on the BBC website that Vietnamese blogger Pham Doan Trang had been arrested and charged with “making, storing, disseminating or propagandizing information, materials and products that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” Ms. Trang’s crimes included advocating for democracy, press freedom and the rule of law. A wicked lady indeed. Her arrest came shortly after the 24th annual U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.
Ms. Trang was following in the footsteps of the co-founder of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom. Her delightful moniker derives from the nickname of her youngest daughter.
In 2017, Ms. Quynh was sentenced to 10 years in jail for distributing propaganda against the state; however, in 2018 she was released from prison and exiled. She now lives in the U.S. where she declares she will “never keep silent” in her fight for democracy in Vietnam.
We might say these ladies are fortunate that they avoided the fate of Russian opposition blogger and activist Alexei Navalny. Navalny barely escaped death after being poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok, a Putin specialty.
Then there’s the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, currently serving a 10-year sentence for criticizing the Saudi Arabian regime. He was convicted in 2013 of “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes. So far, he has received only 50, the remainder delayed because of his ill health.
But we mustn’t conclude without saying a few things about the biggest jailer of journalists in the world—China. For example, there is state media journalist turned anti-corruption blogger, Chen Jieren, who was sentenced to 15 years earlier this year after publishing two articles on his blog claiming corruption by Hunan party officials.
When I was a kid and didn’t finish my supper, my mother would remark that I was lucky, people in China were starving. Well, they are still starving in China, not for food but for the right to freely express themselves. All 1.4 billion of them. And they are now adding another 7.5 million in Hong Kong.
Summing up the populations of all the countries that keep their people on a leash presents us with a staggering number of folk who don’t dare do what I do every day without thinking—simply express a point of view. Canada, I think, is a very good place to blog.