American journalist Danny Fenster sentenced to 11 years in Myanmar prison

A Myanmar court on Friday convicted American journalist Danny Fenster of three charges, including immigration violations, and sentenced him to prison for 11 years — the harshest possible sentences for those crimes under the law.

The punitive treatment of Fenster, a 37-year-old Detroit native, has been widely condemned by advocates of press freedom, the U.S. government and the international community, as the Myanmar military continues a campaign of imprisoning journalists and activists after taking power in a February coup.

Fenster still faces two more serious charges, of terrorism and sedition, which were just added and have not yet been heard. These men could be sentenced to up to life imprisonment.

“The Burmese military regime’s sentencing of U.S. journalist Danny Fenster is an unjust conviction of an innocent person. Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department said that “The United States condemned this decision.” “We are closely monitoring Danny’s situation and will continue to work for his immediate release.”

Fenster was seized at Yangon International Airport in May as he tried to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur and was taken to Insein Prison. At the time, he was the managing editor for Frontier Myanmar. This news source focuses on Myanmar.

The prison is notorious for its poor conditions and has been used by Myanmar’s military government to hold scores of political prisoners. Fenster was excluded from an amnesty of more than 5,000 prisoners, including anti-coup protesters, last month.

A court in military-ruled Myanmar convicted American journalist Danny Fenster of three charges, including immigration violations, on Nov. 12. (Reuters)

On Friday, after a trial in a court inside Insein Prison that was closed to the public, Fenster was sentenced to 11 years on charges including a violation of the immigration act and the unlawful associations act. During the trial, the prosecution argued that official records did not accurately reflect where he was employed, as the ruling junta sought to establish that he was working for Myanmar Now, a different outlet that was banned in the country after the coup.

A statement from Frontier Myanmar said the court “disregarded a significant amount of evidence of his employment at Frontier, including tax and social security records and testimony from a Frontier employee.”

“There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges,” said Thomas Kean, Frontier’s editor in chief. “His legal team clearly demonstrated to the court that he had resigned from Myanmar Now and was working for Frontier from the middle of last year.”

Kean added: “Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family.”

Fenster is one of more than 100 journalists who have been detained since the coup. As the Myanmar military seeks silence from all critics, several dozen journalists remain in prison. Journalists have fled the country after being raided at their offices. Many are now seeking asylum in Thailand.

Frontier Myanmar is an award-winning news and business magazine, which publishes both in English and Myanmar. The magazine had announced in October that it was suspending the publication of its print edition and will temporarily stop publishing on social media. This decision is due to the hostile environment for Myanmar journalism.

Frontier Myanmar continues to operate through newsletters sent to subscribers.

Fenster’s family has repeatedly called on the U.S. government to secure his release. In a previous interview, Bryan Fenster, his brother, said Danny “cares tremendously about journalism as an art form but also the responsibility that comes with it to make the world a better place.”

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