The 88 Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization registered in the state of Illinois, United States. It was founded in November 2012 by Huong Nguyen, then a Ph.D. student at Indiana University; Ella Gancarz, a Polish independent film-maker based in London; and Kaylee Dolen, then a student at Indiana University and active member of Amnesty International. We noticed a lack of information in English on many cases of political prisoners in Vietnam, and decided to found the project with the mission to support and encourage freedom of expression in Vietnam.
All three co-founders continue to serve as staff of the Project. Together, this team has cultivated a unique focus for The 88 Project by highlighting lesser-known political prisoners in Vietnam and those who do not have robust international advocacy efforts. Take, for example, the case of Phan Kim Khanh, a young student activist who was arrested in March 2017 and sentenced to six years in prison in October 2017 for his blogs and social media commentary. The Project has appealed for assistance for Khanh’s family so that they can send him supplies in prison. The Project also elaborates on gender-specific issues that affect activists and political prisoners and also uses multimedia to bring activists’ voices to a larger audience. In 2013, we released a short interview series featuring female former political prisoner Pham Thanh Nghien, who spoke on the complex, compounding challenges she faced in prison as both a dissident and a woman.
A screenshot of Tran Thi Thuy’s profile in our Vietnamese Political Prisoner Database
Our philosophy is evident in our Vietnamese Political Prisoners Database. This tool, which we created in 2017 and launched in early 2018, is the first searchable database of political prisoners in Vietnam. The database allows users to search prisoner profiles using such criteria as year of arrest, gender, ethnicity, areas of activism, charges, and length of sentence. It is updated weekly with the latest news on trials, releases, health conditions, and family situations. On the home page, users can also conveniently see the number of prisoners who are currently in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence, as well as the numbers of female and ethnic minorities prisoners. We also offer detailed profiles for many prisoners, which provide context to help global audience connect with those imprisoned, as well as vital pieces of information which can be used by international groups and governments in their advocacy efforts.
An excerpt of the “Timeline of Events in the Struggle for Freedom of Expression in Vietnam” on The 88 Project website
Other current activities of The 88 Project include raising awareness about political prisoners through our website, social media, and press appearances; working with international and domestic human rights organizations in campaigning for the protection and release of political prisoners; producing interviews with former political prisoners, activists at risk, and their families; updating our Timeline on the repression of freedom of expression in Vietnam; and writing weekly newsletters on the situation of human rights and civil society in Vietnam.
The 88 Project has been cited by and has advised several international human rights
organizations and individuals and provides many more with reliable, up-to-date information on
the status of political prisoners and events taking place in Vietnam. We’ve been quoted in several international news publications, including Reuters, Radio Free Asia, and the Asia Sentinel. The weekly newsletter we produce reaches a wide range of private citizens, human rights campaigners, and governments’ officials.
Since 2012, we’ve produced several short documentaries and interviews with former political prisoners and their families, encouraging direct communication of their experiences to a larger public audience. In 2013, we released our documentary, “88- The Repression of Cyber Dissidence”
A still from our short documentary, “88- The Repression of Cyber Dissidence,” released in 2013
Other past activities of The 88 Project have included: raised awareness on the situation of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam on the Indiana University campus through letter writing events and informational presentations; wrote monthly human rights recaps covering the latest human rights news coming out of Vietnam; participated as panelist in RSF Press Conference on World Press Freedom Index 2014; and advocated for prisoners of conscience in meetings with the U.S. State Department, members of Congress, and international human rights organizations.
Kaylee Dolen & Huong Nguyen and advocacy efforts at Indiana University(2012-2013)
Huong Nguyen with US Representative Alan Lowenthal (2014)
Huong Nguyen & Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay) at the CPJ (2015)
Vietnamese Political Prisoner Database: vietnamprisoners.info
Press Appearance Samples:
Vietnam Jails Four for Flying Flag of ‘Saigon Regime’, James Pearson, Reuters, January 24, 2018
Here’s What We Learned From the Online Database of Vietnam’s Political Prisoners, Mong Palatino, Global Voices, March 2, 2018
Staff Article Samples:
Father Demands Justice for Son Spending His 5th Consecutive Birthday in Prison, Huong Nguyen, Amnesty International, November 2014
Unending Punishment: Political Repression in Vietnam, Kaylee Dolen, Asia Sentinel, July 29, 2017