Burmese official: Americans’ offense goes beyond journalism | PA
BANGKOK (AP) – An American journalist detained in Myanmar four months ago has been arrested for acts incompatible with his profession, a spokesperson for the government-installed government said on Thursday.
Military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun did not elaborate on his response at a press conference to a question about Danny Fenster, who is awaiting trial on charges of incitement to violence, also known as sedition. Fenster, 37, is the editor of the Yangon-based online business and news magazine Frontier Myanmar.
The charge, frequently used against dissidents and journalists, criminalizes “any attempt to instigate fear, spread false news or directly or indirectly stir up a criminal offense against a government employee.” He is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Asked about the reason for the arrest, Zaw Min Tun replied, âAs for journalists, if they are only doing journalistic work, there is no reason to arrest them. Danny Fenster has done more than a journalist does. He said he couldn’t say more, other than that Fenster was kept in custody because he was charged.
Fenster’s lawyer and colleagues have denied any wrongdoing on his part.
Fenster was among over 100 journalists detained since the February 1 military takeover toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government. More than half have since been released, but freedom of expression remains tightly restricted, with independent media forced to operate underground or from outside the country. Resistance to military rule initially met with widespread peaceful protests in the streets, but security forces used lethal force against protesters – killing more than 1,100 people – and now face severe violent counter-attacks.
Zaw Min Tun denied Fenster’s statement in mid-July that he believed he had contracted COVID-19 and had not received the drugs he requested. Authorities at Insein Prison in Yangon also denied that he was infected. He also told his lawyer on September 20 that he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
âDanny Fenster is in good health,â Zaw Min Tun said. âThe COVID-19 vaccine is given to everyone who is in prison. It is up to him to decide whether or not to be vaccinated.
Fenster’s attorney, Than Zaw Aung, said Fenster appeared demoralized when he last spoke to her on video conference during a court hearing on September 20.
âHer hair has grown longer. He sounded disappointed and he told me in a frustrated tone that ‘I have nothing to say’, âthe lawyer said. âI asked him if he had been vaccinated by the prison authorities, and he said no. His words showed he was not feeling well. He didn’t ask for anything.
Fenster was arrested at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he attempted to board a flight to the Detroit area in the United States to see his family, who are currently campaigning for his release. The US government and international media organizations have backed their call for the release of Fenster and other journalists.
Than Zaw Aung said in July that his client was charged with his previous work as a journalist and editor for the Myanmar Now online news site.
Myanmar Now, along with several other media outlets, had its license revoked in early March, banning it from posting on any platform. However, it continued to operate online.
Fenster resigned from Myanmar Now in July last year and joined Frontier Myanmar a month later, and it is not known why he was arrested, his lawyer said.
âWhat I can say is that he was charged as a Myanmar Now staff member. I don’t know if this is an article published on Myanmar Now or not, âhe said.
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