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Human Rights Watch announces 42 Hellman/Hammett grantees

Six Vietnamese writers are being given Hellman/Hammett grants this year.
Six Vietnamese writers are being given Hellman/Hammett grants this year.

Human Rights Watch

A Burmese political cartoonist, a Rwandan journalist beaten with iron bars for his critical writing and a Vietnamese blogger who continues to live under tight state surveillance are just three of the 42 writers and journalists from 20 countries receiving this year's Hellman/Hammett grants. Administered by Human Rights Watch, the grants are given annually to writers around the world who have been targets of political persecution.

One recipient is Harn Lay, a Burmese political cartoonist/satirist for "The Irrawaddy" who fled Burma after the violent crackdown in 1988. Lay's cartoons use humour to protest the brutality of Burma's military regime.

Another recipient is Rwandan journalist Jean Bosco Gasasira, who fled the country after being threatened with death. (See Rwanda story for more information.)

Colombian freelance journalist Carina del Carmen Solano Padilla is another awardee. In 2006, after reporting on the paramilitary demobilisation during which illegal armed groups sought amnesty, Solano Padilla began receiving phone calls warning her to stop or she would be killed.

Grants have been given to six Vietnamese bloggers, writers and journalists. Bui Thanh Hieu is one of the country's best-known bloggers, who is constantly monitored and could be arrested and jailed at any time. Another awardee is Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, a prominent novelist and journalist, who writes about farmers' land rights, human rights, corruption and political pluralism. She has been arrested, held incommunicado and constantly harassed.

Over the past 21 years, more than 700 writers from 92 countries have received Hellman/Hammett grants of up to US$10,000 each, totalling more than $3 million. Many of the awardees cannot be named for their safety.

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