Wednesday 26 May 2021

PEN International is alarmed over reports that a US journalist Danny Fenster was detained by the junta forces in Myanmar as he was attempting to leave the country on Monday. His detention marks the latest disturbing escalation in the military junta’s efforts to silence independent reporting in the country after it seized power on 1 February 2021.

On 24 May 2021, Danny Fenster, who works as managing editor for independent news outlet Frontier Myanmar, was reportedly detained by junta forces in Yangon International Airport while he was about to embark on a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as part of a journey to visit his family back in the United States. According to his employer, Fenster was subsequently transferred to Insein prison, near Yangon.

The unelected leaders of Myanmar continue to disregard international laws and norms with impunity. Danny Fenster, an American citizen, was about to leave Myanmar for Malaysia, for onward journey to the United States. Instead, he has been arrested and sent to the notorious Insein Prison. Fenster is a journalist whose publication, Frontier Myanmar, is one of the few independent media entities reporting accurately and fearlessly about the situation in Myanmar. Every individual has the right to travel freely, and while governments can place reasonable restrictions on some individuals, it can only be done with due process, following court orders, and under the law. Fenster joins other foreign journalists that Myanmar has arrested in recent months, and he – and the others – must be released unconditionally, and be allowed to return to Myanmar if he wishes to do so. Myanmar must also remove restrictions placed on the media, including periodic crackdowns on access to the Internet, and release other journalists, writers, poets, and human rights defenders it has arrested since the military staged its illegal coup,’ said Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

Danny Fenster’s detention is one of a growing number of cases of international journalists who have been targeted by the military junta in recent weeks, including the arrest and later release of Japanese journalist, Yuuki Kitazumi, and Polish journalist, Robert Bociaga. Another American journalist, Nathan Maung, was detained on 9 March and is yet to be released.

The targeting of international journalists reflects a brazen escalation of the military junta’s efforts to silence any reporting of its campaign of terror, which has resulted in at least 824 civilian deaths, and thousands more detained and at risk of torture. Since the coup began, the military junta has detained dozens of local journalistsimposed extensive internet blackouts, and forced the shutdown of numerous news agencies.

PEN International condemns the military junta’s brutal suppression of the people of Myanmar and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those wrongfully detained.