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November 11, 2021 - Updated on November 12, 2021

Myanmar: US journalist gets 11-year jail sentence, still facing life imprisonment

(Image: bringdannyhome.com / RSF).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Danny Fenster, a US journalist who has been detained by Myanmar’s junta for the past 170 days and who is now facing two additional charges, including one – terrorism – that carries a possible life sentence.


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Update - 12 November 2021


US journalist Danny Fenster was sentenced to 11 years in prison at the end of a summary trial inside Yangon’s Insein prison today. He was convicted on three charges: inciting dissent, unlawful association and violating immigration law.


He still faces the possibility of an additional life imprisonment on sedition and terrorism charges in the parallel proceedings that the Yangon prosecutor’s office initiated against him on 10 November. 


RSF condemns today’s extremely shocking sentence, which is typical of the grim fate that the military junta’s generals reserve for journalists and all those struggling to defend press freedom.


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The editor of the Frontier Myanmar magazine, Danny Fenster was told yesterday that the Yangon prosecutor’s office is now also charging him with “sedition” under section 124a of the penal code, and “terrorism” under section 50a of the terrorism law, a charge punishable by imprisonment for life.


Arrested on 24 May as he was about to fly back to the United States to visit his family, Fenster was initially charged with endangering the interests of the armed forces under section 505a of the penal code, a charge used by the junta to imprison all journalists arrested by the military.

 

A second charge of illegal association was added to his indictment on 4 October, and a third charge of “illegal association” was brought against him a month later, on 3 November.

 

“With five charges, including one that could result in his spending the rest of his days in one of Myanmar’s prisons, the treatment reserved by the junta for Danny Fenster clearly constitutes persecution,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “This journalist is paying a high price of his commitment to press freedom in Myanmar. We demand his immediate and unconditional release.”

 

A US State Department spokesperson said: “The regime should take the prudent step of releasing him now... His continued detention is unacceptable." The military junta did not comment on the new charges.

 

The coup d’état that Myanmar’s armed forces carried out on 1 February was followed by an unprecedented wave of arrests of journalists. According to RSF’s tally, more than 100 journalists have been arrested since the coup and a total of 47 media professionals are currently detained.

 

Myanmar is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.