Danny Fenster, an American journalist and the Managing Editor of Frontier Myanmar, who was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment a few days ago has on Monday been released and is on his way back home, announced former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson.
“This is the day that you hope will come when you do this work. 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,” said Richardson.
He further added, “Danny’s release was secured following a private humanitarian visit by Governor Richardson to Myanmar and face-to-face negotiations with General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s Commander in Chief”.
Thanking the Qatar government, Richardson informed that Fenster along with the Richardson team will be making their journey through Qatar over the next day and a half.
Fenster was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment by a Myanmar junta court on November 12 on charges of unlawful association, incitement against the military and breaching visa rules, Frotier Myanmar had reported.
As per the media outlet, the journalist was arrested back in May when he tried to leave the country to see his family and had ever since been held in Yangon’s Insein prison since. He also faced charges of sedition and terrorism. He is also currently facing two additional charges under the Counter-Terrorism Law and section 124(a) of the Penal Code that will be heard separately.
Based on allegations that at the time of his arrest, Fenster had been working at a local outlet, Myanmar Now, which had its licence revoked shortly after the military coup in the country in February. This is when he was sentenced. As per Frontier Myanmar, Fenster had resigned from Myanmar Now in July 2020 and joined Frontier Myanmar the following month, “so by his arrest in May 2021 he had been working with Frontier for nine months”.
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,” according to the Frontier Myanmar.
In the aftermath of the general elections in November 2020, Myanmar saw the detention of Kyi and President Win Myint with a military coup. This is despite the elections seeing a landslide victory for the National League for Democrary party (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi over military’s proxy party the Union Solidarity and Development Party which the army claimed to be fraudulent.
This resulted in internet disruption across the country and the information ministry blocked Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under military control. Journalists and activists staged widespread protest against Kyi’s detention in several cities and almost 400 elected members of parliament were placed under house arrest. A large-scale media crackdown also took place.
Restricting the press freedom in the country several new reforms were introduced that led to the arrest of as many as 98 journalists in the past six months with 31 still in detention and suspension of licenses of several media outlets.
“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,” Frontier Myanmar said in a statement.
Myanmar is ranked 140 out of 180 in press freedom index 2021, as per the data released by the RSF.
Ranking two steps behind Myanmar is India at 142 in the press freedom index. The country was recently in the news for booking several journalists for tweeting and reporting on communal violence in Tripura.
Prior to that several journalists were detained while covering the ongoing famers’ protest in the border of the country’s capital in February. The country had also witnessed several occasions of journalists being booked for being critical of the Bharatiya Janata Party government on social media. Journalist Siddique Kappan continues to be in jail since October 2020 for having travelled to cover the Hathras gang-rape case.