Danny Fenster: US journalist jailed in Myanmar returns home

The journalist was sentenced to 11 years in prison

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 16 November 2021 16:41
US journalist Danny Fenster was ‘shackled’ when released from Myanmar prison

American journalist Danny Fenster touched down in the US on Tuesday after being sentenced to 11 years in a Myanmar prison.

Mr Fenster was found guilty of allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information, speaking with illegal organisations and violating the terms of his visa, among other charges last week. He was detained for months ahead of his trial.

The journalist's release was secured by US diplomat Bill Richardson, who traveled to Myanmar to negotiate with the country's officials.

“We are so grateful that Danny will finally be able to reconnect with his loved ones, who have been advocating for him all this time, against immense odds,” Mr Richardson, who formerly served as governor of New Mexico and ambassador to the United Nations, said, according to the The Associated Press.

Myanmar's military government, which took power in a coup last February, said it was deporting Mr Fenster and would "release details why he was released later”. Mr Richardson confirmed that securing the journalist’s release required him to meet face to face with Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the military junta.

Mr Fenster, 37, is the managing editor at Frontier Myanmar, an independent news site that covers current affairs, politics and business in the country.

Prior his flight back via Doha, Mr Fenster told the AP that he was “feeling alright physically” following his lock up.

“It’s just the same privations and things that come with any form of incarceration. ... The longer it drags on, the more worried you are that it’s just never going to end,” he said.

Mr Fenster said he was not beaten or starved during his time in prison, but noted to reporters that he was nonetheless “happy to be on my way home.”

His family is predictably excited to see him and “overjoyed” that he was deported rather than imprisoned.

“We cannot wait to hold him in our arms,” the family said in a statement. “We are tremendously grateful to all the people who have helped secure his release, especially Ambassador Richardson, as well as our friends and the public who have expressed their support and stood by our sides as we endured these long and difficult months.”

While Mr Fenster and his family will celebrate their reunification, there are still dozens of reporters who were locked up after the military took control of the country.

According to the United Nations, about 126 press or media workers were imprisoned during the coup. The majority have been released, but 47 remain incarcerated.

Myanmar’s military junta has raised concerns among the international community as reports from monitoring and advocacy groups like the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners claim there are widespread arrests, tortures and beatings being carried out by the new regime.

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