US journalist held in Myanmar charged with terrorism and sedition, lawyer says

Danny Fenster's 'continued detention is unacceptable', US State Department spokesman says

Myanmar's junta has charged a US journalist detained since May with sedition and terrorism, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

The military has squeezed the press since taking power in a February coup, arresting dozens of journalists critical of its crackdown on dissent, which has killed more than 1,200 people, a local monitoring group reported.

Danny Fenster, who had been working for local outlet Frontier Myanmar for about a year, was arrested as he was heading home to see his family in May and has been held in Yangon's Insein prison since.

The 37-year-old is on trial for reportedly encouraging dissent against the military, unlawful association and breaching immigration law.

The additional charges under Myanmar's antiterror and sedition laws open Fenster up to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The trial is scheduled to begin on November 16.

“He has become quite thin,” lawyer Than Zaw Aung said.

Fenster was “disappointed” at being hit with the new charges, which were filed on Tuesday, his lawyer added.

The US on Wednesday urged Myanmar's junta to free Fenster immediately.

“The profoundly unjust nature of Danny's detention is plain for all the world to see,” a State Department representative told AFP.

“The regime should take the prudent step of releasing him now … His continued detention is unacceptable. Journalism is not a crime.”

The profoundly unjust nature of Danny's detention is plain for all the world to see
US State Department representative

The new charges come days after former US diplomat and hostage negotiator Bill Richardson met junta chief Min Aung Hlaing in the capital Naypyidaw, handing the increasingly isolated junta some rare publicity.

Mr Richardson said he was hopeful he had brokered a deal for a resumption of visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross to prisons — which have been filled with political inmates.

Declining to give further details, Mr Richardson said the US State Department had asked him not to raise Fenster's case during his visit.

“Danny's case has become emblematic of the utter contempt Myanmar's military has for independent media,” said Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for research.

Fenster last spoke with US consular officials by phone on October 31, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday.

The South-East Asian country has been mired in chaos since the military ousted the elected government, with the junta trying to crush widespread democracy protests and stamp out dissent.

Several journalists critical of the military government were among those released last month in an amnesty to mark a Buddhist festival.

More than 100 journalists have been arrested since the putsch, Reporting ASEAN, a monitoring group, said.

It says 31 are still in detention.

The coup snuffed out the country's short-lived experiment with democracy, with civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi now facing a series of charges that could lead to her being jailed for decades.

Updated: November 10th 2021, 5:49 PM