Dissident Vietnam blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’ released, relocated to the US

Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, center, known by her pen name Mother Mushroom, attends her appeal trial at a local people’s court on November 30, 2017 in the central coastal city of Nha Trang. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Dissident Vietnam blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’ released, relocated to the US

  • Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was freed from jail Wednesday and put on a flight en route to the US
  • Officials did not give an official reason for relocating her

HANOI: A dissident Vietnamese blogger known by the pen name ‘Mother Mushroom’ was on her way to the United States Wednesday after being released from prison where she was serving 10 years for anti-state propaganda, multiple sources said.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was freed from jail Wednesday and put on a flight en route to the US to join her children and mother, a US embassy source, friends, and a Vietnam official said.
“Quynh was sent to the US earlier today,” a Vietnamese government official confirmed, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Family friend Nguyen Lai said on Facebook “congratulations” to Quynh, adding she would soon be in a “free country.”
Quynh, one of Vietnam’s most well-known activists whose recognizable pen name “Me Nam” comes from her daughter’s nickname “mushroom,” was jailed in June 2017 in a case that drew ire from the US, the EU and the UN.
She is an outspoken critic of Vietnam’s one-party state and gained notoriety with her writing about the environment, politics and deaths in police custody — a no-go topic in communist Vietnam.
Quynh became a cause celebre and received an International Woman of Courage Award in 2017, presented to her in absentia by US First Lady Melania Trump.
She was arrested in October 2016 after visiting a fellow activist in prison and even from jail she remained steadfast in her opposition to the communist government.
Her family said she held several hunger strikes in jail, most recently in July when she stopped eating for two weeks, according to the 88 Project, a political prisoner watchdog.
Earlier this year she was moved from a jail in her home province of Khanh Hoa to a prison hundreds of kilometers away, a move her relatives objected to because it made it harder to visit her.
Officials did not give an official reason for relocating her.
Quynh’s daughter also wrote an emotional letter addressed to Melania Trump.
Washington has developed strong ties with Vietnam to counterbalance a rising China and has come under fire for putting issues of free expression and human rights on the backburner, especially in Vietnam.
But Quynh’s release came as US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited the country for the second time this year, fueling speculation of a goodwill gesture from Vietnam’s leadership.


Google fined $1.7bn for search ad blocks

Updated 20 March 2019
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Google fined $1.7bn for search ad blocks

  • Google received three fines in the past two years
  • EU Commission says Google has been blocking competitors for the past ten years

BRUSSELS: Google was fined $1.7 billion on Wednesday for blocking rival online search advertisers, the third large European Union antitrust penalty for the Alphabet business in two only years.

The European Commission, which said the fine accounted for 1.29 percent of Google’s turnover in 2018, said in a statement that the anti-competitive practices had lasted a decade.

“Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

The case concerned websites, such as of newspaper or travel sites, with a search function that produces search results and search adverts. Google’s AdSense for Search provided such search adverts.

The misconduct included stopping publishers from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages, forcing them to reserve the most profitable space on their search results pages for Google’s adverts and a requirement to seek written approval from Google before making changes to the way in which any rival adverts were displayed.

The AdSense advertising case was triggered by a complaint from Microsoft in 2010. Both companies subsequently dropped complaints against each other in 2016.

Last year, Vestager imposed a record $4.92 billion fine on Google for using its popular Android mobile operating system to block rivals. This followed a $2.74 billion fine in June 2017 for hindering rivals of shopping comparison websites.

Google is now trying to comply with the order to ensure a level playing field with proposals to boost price comparison rivals and prompt Android users to choose their preferred browsers and search apps. Critics however are still not happy.