Myanmar Says Journalist Danny Fenster Does 'More' Than What Reporters Do Amid Arrest

The Myanmar government accused Danny Fenster, a journalist currently detained in the country, of doing "more" than what other reporters do in defense of his arrest, the Associated Press reported. Fenster, 37, the managing editor of the online news and business magazine Frontier Myanmar, has now been held for four months in Myanmar.

Though Myanmar's military-installed government hasn't disclosed what crimes warranted his detention, the journalist is awaiting trial for an incitement, or sedition, charge, according to the AP. The charge, which can result in up to a three-year prison sentence, is commonly imposed on dissidents and journalists for "any attempt to cause fear, spread false news, or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee."

Military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun was asked why Fenster was arrested during a news conference.

"As for journalists, if they do only journalist's work, there is no reason to arrest them. Danny Fenster did more than just what a journalist does," he responded, adding that he could not provide further details.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Danny Fenster's Family
Myanmar said Thursday that detained journalist Danny Fenster did "more" than what other journalists do. Above, Fenster's parents, Buddy Fenster (L) and Rose Fenster (C) and brother Bryan Fenster (R) gather in Huntington Woods, Michigan, on June 4, 2021. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

Fenster's lawyer and colleagues have denied any wrongdoing on his part.

Fenster was among about 100 journalists detained since the February 1 military takeover ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. More than half have since been released, but free speech remains under tight restrictions, with independent media forced to operate underground or from outside the country. Resistance to military rule was initially met with widespread peaceful street protests, but security forces used deadly force against demonstrators—killing more than 1,100—and now face violent counterattacks.

Zaw Min Tun denied Fenster's statement in mid-July that he believed he had contracted COVID-19 and was not given medicine he had requested. The authorities at Yangon's Insein Prison also have denied he is infected. He also told his lawyer on September 20 that he had not received a COVID-19 vaccination.

"Danny Fenster is in good health," said Zaw Min Tun. "The COVID-19 vaccine is being given to all those in prisons. It is up to him to decide whether or not to get vaccinated."

Fenster's lawyer Than Zaw Aung said Fenster seemed demoralized when he last spoke with him in a video conference during a September 20 court hearing.

"His hair grew longer. He seemed disappointed and he told me in a frustrated tone that 'I have nothing to say,'" the lawyer said. "I asked him if he had been vaccinated by the prison authorities, and he said no. His words showed that he is not feeling well. He didn't request anything."

Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was trying to board a flight to the Detroit area in the United States to see his family, who are now leading a campaign for his release. The U.S. government and international media organizations backed their call for the release of Fenster and other journalists.

Than Zaw Aung said in July that his client was charged in connection with his previous job as a reporter and copy editor for the online news site Myanmar Now.

Myanmar Now, along with several other media outlets, had its license revoked in early March, banning it from publishing on any platform. However, it has continued to operate online.

Fenster resigned from Myanmar Now in July last year and joined Frontier Myanmar a month later, and it was unclear why he was arrested, his lawyer said.

"What I can say is that he was accused as a staff member of Myanmar Now. I'm not clear if it concerns a story posted on Myanmar Now or not," he said.

Free Danny Fenster Shirt
Though Myanmar hasn’t disclosed what crimes Danny Fenster allegedly committed, the journalist is awaiting trial for an incitement charge. Above, a person wears a t-shirt calling for the release of Fenster in Huntington Woods, Michigan, on June 4, 2021. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images