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Family of Myanmar-held US journo calls for release

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US journalist Danny Fenster works in New Iberia of the US state of Louisiana before joining the Frontier Myanmar online magazine. FENSTER FAMIILY/AFP

Family of Myanmar-held US journo calls for release

The family of US journalist Danny Fenster on August 31 appealed for his release by Myanmar authorities as they marked his 100th day of imprisonment by the Yangon military regime.

Fenster is believed to have contracted Covid-19 during his detention, family members said during a conference call with US journalists.

He appeared to be suffering from “brain fog” and a loss of taste and smell during his last call with family members August 1 but had not been tested, his mother Rose Fenster said.

His mother said there has been only limited communication with him in Myanmar even as efforts are made by the US embassy and others to secure his freedom.

“It’s been a tough 100 days – it’s hard to believe it’s 100 days – but we are grateful for our community’s support,” she said,

The managing editor of the Frontier Myanmar news outlet, Fenster has been under investigation under a law criminalising dissent that carries a maximum three-year jail sentence.

The journalist’s father Buddy Fenster said he was optimistic about the prospects for his son’s release.

“They haven’t charged him, and I think that’s something,” he said.

Danny’s brother Bryan Fenster added that the journalist was not an activist or even a working reporter but “someone who was sitting behind a desk”.

Based on recent calls, Bryan Fenster said: “His voice sounds strong … he still has a sense of humour which is amazing but you can feel and hear the anxiety and frustration in his voice at the same time.”

The family’s appeal comes days ahead of Fenster’s upcoming September 6 hearing, with no clear information about the next steps.

Fenster, 37, was detained on May 24 at the international airport in Yangon, Myanmar’s main city, as he tried to board a plane out of the country.

He had been working for Frontier Myanmar for around a year and had been heading home to see his family.

The Department of State earlier said the US embassy was denied requests to see Fenster. “No reason was given for the filing of the charge against him,” the statement said.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military seized power in a February 1 coup, with near-daily protests and a huge civil disobedience movement.

More than 850 civilians have been killed across the country in an ongoing military crackdown, according to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a local monitoring group.

The press has been squeezed as the junta tries to tighten control over the flow of information, throttling internet access and revoking the licences of local media outlets.

The junta revised its penal code soon after the coup to include spreading “fake news” as a crime.

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