HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — An international human rights group has honoured six Vietnamese activists for their courage in the face of political persecution in Vietnam.

The six were among 42 writers from 20 countries to receive the annual Hellman/Hammmett award, New York-based Human Rights Watch announced Wednesday.

All of this year's awardees from Vietnam are activist writers whose work was suppressed by the government in its efforts to restrict free speech, control independent media, and limit access and use of the Internet, it said.

"By honouring courageous writers who have suffered political persecution, lost their jobs, or even sacrificed their freedom, we hope to bring international attention to voices that the Vietnamese government is trying to silence," Phil Robertson, deputy director of the group's Asia division, said in statement.

Vietnam's government says it does not jail or harass people over political beliefs, and only incarcerates people who break the law.

This year's winners include jailed novelist and journalist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy; human rights activist Pham Van Troi; poet and military veteran Tran Duc Thach; and teacher and writer Vu Van Hung.

Also honoured were bloggers Bui Thanh Hieu and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh who were detained briefly last year for criticizing the government's policies on China and its disputed claims to the Spratly islands.

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was given the same award in 2007.

The Hellman/Hammett award is named after U.S. playwright Lillian Hellman and her longtime companion novelist Dashiell Hammett, both of whom were questioned in the United States during 1950s about their political beliefs amid anti-communist hysteria.