U.S. Journalist Jailed in Myanmar Over Working for Media Outlet He Left 7 Months Earlier

An American journalist jailed in Myanmar is being held for an offense allegedly carried out by a media outlet he had left seven months prior to his arrest, his lawyer said Friday.

Danny Fenster is the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, an online news magazine based in Yangon, the country's biggest city. He was detained on May 24 at Yangon International Airport when he was about to board a flight to the United States to see his family.

Until July of last year, Fenster worked as a reporter and copy editor for the online news site Myanmar Now, and joined Frontier Myanmar the following month.

"It is disappointing that the prosecution is still alleging that Danny was working for Myanmar Now in March 2021, when in reality he had resigned seven months earlier to join Frontier," Thomas Kean, Frontier Myanmar's editor-in-chief, wrote in a text message Friday.

"It just underscores again why he should never have been arrested in the first place, and why the charges should be dropped immediately so he can go home to his family."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Danny Fenster
U.S. journalist Danny Fenster, who has spent more than four months in pretrial detention in military-ruled Myanmar, has been slapped with a second criminal charge of violating section of the Unlawful Associations Act, his lawyer said on October 4, 2021. Above, in 2018, Fenster works out of his van that he made into a home/office in Detroit. Fenster Family photo via AP, File

Media groups and the U.S. government have called for Fenster's release. He is among about 100 journalists detained since a February 1 military takeover ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. More than half have since been released, but the media remain under tight restrictions.

As popular resistance to the military takeover grew, Myanmar Now, along with several other media outlets, had its license revoked in early March. It was banned from publishing on any platform but has continued to operate clandestinely online.

Fenster's lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, said the judge at Friday's pre-trial hearing told his client that after Myanmar Now had its license revoked, it continued to post stories about the activities of organizations opposed to the military takeover.

Those groups—the Civil Disobedience Movement, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and the National Unity Government—were all established after the army seized power and declared illegal.

Contacting them and publishing their words is punishable by two to three years' imprisonment under the Unlawful Associations Act, which Fenster was formally charged under earlier this month. The judge said Fenster had been sought in connection with Myanmar Now's activities, along with its chief editor, Ko Swe Win.

Fenster had already been charged with sedition for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information. That offense is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Details of his case are scarce, and the hearings at the court at Insein Prison, where Fenster is jailed, are closed to the press and the public.

Military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said last month that "Danny Fenster did more than just what a journalist does." He did not elaborate.

Fenster's lawyer said defense and prosecution both submitted their arguments on whether bail should be allowed in the sedition case, with a ruling expected at the next court session on October 27. He said Fenster was in good health.

Danny Fenster
American journalist Danny Fenster, who is imprisoned in Myanmar, is being held for an offense carried out by a media organization he left seven months prior to his arrest. Above, a person wears a T-shirt calling for Fenster's release in Huntington Woods, Michigan, on June 4, 2021. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images