37-year-old US journalist, Danny Fenster, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison by Myanmar junta was released on Monday, November 15. The online magazine Frontier Myanmar, which employs Fenster, informed that he left the country after the release. Fenster was freed as a result of negotiations between former US diplomat Bill Richardson and the ruling military junta in Myanmar. Fenster left for Qatar along with Richardson after the release.
The managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, Danny Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport earlier this year in May and was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a court in military-ruled Myanmar on charges of spreading false information, getting in contact with illegal organizations, and violating visa regulations among many others on November 12. Fenster became the first foreign journalist so far to be convicted by the Myanmar junta. The decision was globally condemned.
"We are so grateful that Danny will finally be able to reconnect with his loved ones, who have been advocating for him all this time, against immense odds," Richardson said in a statement. BBC Burmese service noted that a rep for the ruling military council confirmed Fenster's release but refused to provide more details surrounding the same.
Richardson, a former New Mexico governor, US energy secretary, and US ambassador to the United Nations is one of only a few foreigners who have visited junta leader Min Aung Hlaing in Myanmar after the coup. Richardson's organization noted that Fenster was released after Richardson and Min Aung Hlaing's private visit and "face-to-face negotiations". Richardson center even posted a picture of him with Fenster boarding a flight to Qatar.
'Release all of the journalists'
Frontier Myanmar's editor-in-chief, Thomas Kean said in a statement that they're relieved on Fenster's release. "We are relieved that Danny is finally out of prison, somewhere he never should have been in the first place," Kean said. He further noted that "Danny is one of many journalists in Myanmar who have been unjustly arrested simply for doing their job since the February coup" and called on the military regime to "release all of the journalists who remain behind bars in Myanmar."
Danny Fenster was one of the many journalists arrested by the military junta after the coup, in a bid to curb press freedom in the country by shutting down most critical outlets and arresting journalists. Many of them are still in jail. The US had condemned his sentencing as an "unacceptable attack on freedom of expression" while pressing for his release over the weekend.