July 25, 2024

Pathfinder News

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Myanmar Frees Jailed US Journalist

US journalist Danny Fenster has been released from prison in Myanmar after he was sentenced to 11 years in jail by a military court three days ago.

His employer, English-language news site Frontier Myanmar, said he was on a flight out of Myanmar. A spokesman for the military, Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun which took power in a coup in February, confirmed that Fenster could leave the country.

He is one of dozens of journalists, and thousands of people overall, to be held since the coup. In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the release of Fenster, who he said had been “wrongfully detained for almost six months”.

“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 Myanmar, Mr Blinken said.

Fenster, who was Frontier’s managing editor, had been convicted of breaching immigration law, unlawful association and encouraging dissent against the military.

Then last week he was hit with two additional charges of sedition and terrorism, which carry a maximum term of life imprisonment.

Fenster’s release appears to have been negotiated by former US ambassador and hostage negotiator Bill Richardson, who is in Myanmar.

Mr Richardson said Fenster would be flying home via Qatar. “This is the day that you hope will come when you do this work,” he said.

According to Frontier, Fenster had previously worked for Myanmar Now, an independent news site that has been critical of the military since the coup.

“The charges were all based on the allegation that he was working for banned media outlet Myanmar Now. Danny had resigned from Myanmar Now in July 2020 and joined Frontier the following month, so at the time of his arrest in May 2021 he had been working with Frontier for more than nine months,” said the news site. “There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges.” Fenster’s brother, Bryan, said his family could not wait to have him home again.

“We are overjoyed that Danny has been released and is on his way home – we cannot wait to hold him in our arms.

“We are tremendously grateful to all the people who have helped secure his release, especially Ambassador Richardson, as well as our friends and the public who have expressed their support and stood by our sides as we endured these long and difficult months.”