News

May 26, 2021 - Updated on June 14, 2021

US journalist held in Yangon prison notorious for torture

The managing editor of the news magazine Frontier Myanmar, Danny Fenster (left), was arrested and taken to Insein prison (right) where many journalists have been detained and mistreated (photos: Frontier Myanmar - AFP).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed and outraged by US journalist Danny Fenster’s arrest as he was about to leave Myanmar on 24 May and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. Colleagues think he is being held incommunicado in Yangon’s Insein prison, where journalists are often mistreated and tortured.

The managing editor of the news magazine Frontier Myanmar, Daniel Fenster was arrested for no apparent reason at Yangon International Airport as he was about to board a flight to the United States to see his family. Since then there has been no news of him. His colleagues, who have tried without success to contact him, think he was taken to Insein prison, where many journalists have been detained since the coup d’état on 1 February.

 

“Danny Fenster’s arbitrary arrest as he was on his way to see his family and the absence of any information about his health and the conditions in which he is being held in Insein prison are unacceptable and extremely worrying,” RSF spokesperson Pauline Adès-Mével said. “We expressly call for his immediate and unconditional release by the military authorities from Insein prison, which is full of illegally detained journalists.”

 

Fenster’s arrest is another blow for independent media in Myanmar. Yangon-based Frontier Myanmar, which he joined a year ago, has been praised for its detailed coverage of the coup’s impact and its outspoken reporting on the junta. One of its columnists, Sithu Aung Myint, was among the first journalists to be placed on the junta’s blacklist and, as RSF reported, is facing up to three years in prison for reporting that is critical of the military.

 

Fenster is the fourth foreign journalist to be imprisoned in the course of the four months since the coup, following Poland’s Robert Bociaga, Japan’s Yuki Kitazumi and fellow American Nathan Maung, the co-founder of Kamayut Media.

  

Tortured and burned

 

According to the information obtained by RSF, Nathan Maung and fellow Kamayut Media journalist Han Thar Nyein are still being held in Insein, the country’s biggest prison, where successive military governments have been in the habit of mistreating journalists and political opponents.

 

Nathan Maung and Han Thar Nyein were singled out for physical mistreatment during the first few weeks they were held in Insein. Guards forced them to kneel on ice, beat them and use lit cigarettes to burn them on the abdomen, buttocks and thighs, their families said. Kitazumi, who was released from Insein on 15 May, said on his return to Japan that many of his fellow detainees had been subjected to torture and humiliating treatment.

 

A total of 86 journalists have been arrested since the military seized power on 1 February and, as of today, 49 of them are still detained.

 

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