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Danny Fenster
A court in military-ruled Myanmar sentenced Fenster to 11 years in prison last weekImage: Family courtesy/AP Photo/picture alliance
PoliticsMyanmar

Danny Fenster: Myanmar frees jailed US journalist

November 15, 2021

Myanmar's junta said Fenster was pardoned on "humanitarian grounds" after he was sentenced to 11 years in jail. He will leave Myanmar with an ex-US diplomat who negotiated his release.

https://p.dw.com/p/42zW7

A US journalist who had been sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Myanmar junta court was released on Monday.

Myanmar's military government said Danny Fenster was pardoned before his release on "humanitarian grounds" following negotiations with former US Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson and two Japanese envoys.

After a stopover in Qatar on his way to the US, Fenster said, "I feel great and am really happy to be on my way home. I'm incredibly happy for everything Bill has done."

"I was arrested and held in captivity for no reason," he said, when asked if he was mistreated. "But physically, I was healthy. I wasn't starved or beaten."

What we know about Fenster's release

Richardson said Fenster had been released from prison and handed over to him in Myanmar. 

"This is the day that you hope will come when you do this work,'' Richardson said in a statement. "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."

Richardson, who has been on a "private humanitarian mission" to Myanmar this month, said he negotiated Fenster's release during face-to-face meetings with General Min Aung Hlaing, the country's military leader.

"We are glad that Danny will soon be reunited with his family as we continue to call for the release of others who remain unjustly imprisoned in Burma," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, using Myanmar's former name.

The parents of detained journalist Danny Fenster, Buddy Fenster (L) and Rose Fenster (C) and brother Bryan Fenster (R)
Fenster's family and the US State Department had called for his immediate releaseImage: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP

Who is Danny Fenster?

Fenster is the managing editor of the independent online news outlet Frontier Myanmar. 

He was detained in Myanmar in May as he attempted to board a plane at Yangon International Airport to leave the military-ruled country.

On Friday, a Myanmar junta court sentenced Fenster to 11 years in jail over several charges, including incitement for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information.

His lawyer Than Zaw Aung said he was also found guilty of contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations.

Fenster was the first foreign journalist to face such a harsh sentence in Myanmar since the military junta overthrew the elected government in February.

Dozens of journalists arrested in Myanmar

Another US journalist working for a domestic news agency in Myanmar, Nathan Maung, was arrested on charges similar to those against Fenster. He was also released earlier this year. 

Rights groups and watchdogs say Myanmar's military rulers have cracked down on the press, with several independent media outlets shut down, more than 100 journalists arrested and at least 30 still in prison.

In the 2021 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Myanmar was ranked 140 out of 180 countries. Since the coup, the Paris-based organization said journalists in Myanmar "face systematic arrest campaigns and censorship."

Security forces have also cracked down on anti-coup protesters, killing over a thousand people in violent clashes, according to activists.

Myanmar releases political prisoners


fb/aw (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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