Myanmar court sentences journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in jail
T-shirts are seen for sale in support of detained US journalist Danny Fenster in Huntington Woods, Michigan, on June 4, 2021.
Jeff Kowalsky | AFP | Getty Images
A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Friday sentenced detained U.S. journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison after finding him guilty on several charges including incitement for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information.
Fenster, the managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was also found guilty of contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations, lawyer Than Zaw Aung said.
Fenster has been detained since May. He still faces two additional charges in a different court for allegedly violating the counterterrorism law and a statute covering treason and sedition.
Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was about to board a flight to go to the Detroit area in the United States to see his family.
He is the only foreign journalist to be convicted of a serious crime since the army seized power in February, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military-installed government has cracked down hard on press freedom, shutting virtually all critical outlets and arresting about 100 journalists, roughly 30 of whom remain in jail. Some of the closed outlets have continued operating without a license, publishing online as their staff members dodge arrest.
The army takeover was met by widespread peaceful protests that were put down with lethal force. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has detailed the deaths of more than 1,200 civilians, in addition to about 10,000 arrests. Armed resistance has since spread, and U.N. experts and others observers fear the incipient insurgency can slide into civil war.
Fenster’s next challenge is the two additional charges that his lawyer said Monday had been filed in a different court in Yangon.
Than Zaw Aung said one of the new charges comes under a section of the Counterterrorism Act that is punishable by from 10 years to life in prison. The military-installed government has said it would apply the law harshly in cases involving opposition organizations it has deemed to be “terrorist.”
The other charge under the penal code is usually referred to as treason or sedition, and carries a penalty of seven to 20 years’ imprisonment.
The hearings on the original three charges have been held at the court in Yangon’s Insein Prison, where Fenster is jailed. They were closed to the press and the public. Accounts of the proceedings have come from Fenster’s lawyer.