Myanmar court sentences US journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in jail

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File Danny Fenster in Krakow, Poland in September 2019, a year before he was detained by Myanmar military   (Byron Fenster)
File Danny Fenster in Krakow, Poland in September 2019, a year before he was detained by Myanmar military (Byron Fenster)

US journalist Danny Fenster has been sentenced to 11 years in jail by a Myanmar military court for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information, his lawyer said on Friday.

Fenster, who was the managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was also found guilty of contacting illegal organisations and violating visa regulations, lawyer Than Zaw Aung said.

The 37-year-old was detained at Yangon international airport in May following a military coup in February. He is one of dozens of local journalists who have been detained by the current military-led government in Myanmar.

With Friday’s sentencing, he has become the only foreign journalist to be convicted of a serious crime since the army overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and detained dozens of leaders.

But he still faces a verdict for two additional charges, slapped earlier this week in a different court for allegedly violating the counterterrorism law and a statute covering treason and sedition. They carry a maximum sentence of at least 30 years of imprisonment.

Responding to the verdict, Frontier Myanmar said it is “deeply disappointed at the decision today to convict its Managing Editor.”

The news site said he used to work for Myanmar Now, which was an independent news website that was critical of the military. It said that there is “absolutely no basis to convict” the journalist as charges were based on the allegations that he was involved with “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," it added.

Since seizing power from the National League of Democracy, the former ruling party, the General Min Aung Hlaing-led military government has allegedly cracked down on freedom of press. At least 100 journalists have been arrested since then and about 30 of them remain in jail, AP reported.

The military regime has detained more than 9,000 people, including politicians, activists, protesters and other civilians following widespread peaceful protests against the coup. More than 1,200 people have been killed since February, including at least 131 detainees tortured to death.

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