DETROIT – The parents and brother of an American journalist who has been detained in Myanmar for 100 days vowed Tuesday to never stop working to secure his release.
Danny Fenster, 37, is managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, an independent online news outlet based in Yangon, the Southeast Asian nation’s largest city. He was detained May 24 while trying to board a flight to visit his family who live in the Detroit area, and is being held in Yangon’s Insein Prison.
“We're just trying to stay tough — as tough as Danny is — and we're not going to stop until we get him home,” Buddy Fenster, his father, said during a news conference held via Zoom.
Myanmar's military-installed government accuses Fenster of incitement, saying he spread false or inflammatory information. If convicted, Fenster could be imprisoned for up to three years.
Military officials say they are not suppressing press freedom by holding the journalist, but that limits on publishing information are needed to prevent violence and disorder. The junta has detained dozens of journalists since it took power in February this year.
Fenster's next hearing is scheduled for next week, according to his brother, Bryan Fenster.
His family wanted to raise awareness about his detention and call for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds.
Danny Fenster told his lawyer in July that he believed he had COVID-19, but prison authorities denied he was infected. The Fensters say they have not spoken to Danny since Aug. 1. During that conversation, they came to believe that he had indeed contracted the coronavirus.
“He still was having some brain fog, loss of sense of taste and smell, some fatigue,” mother Rose Fenster said, adding that her son has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The U.S. government and press freedom associations have been pushing for Danny Fenster’s release.
“It's 100 days, and he's not home, which is frustrating,” Bryan Fenster said Tuesday. “But we know that at the highest levels this is a top priority. And resources are being used to secure his release."
Michigan Rep. Andy Levin said he is in regular contact with the U.S. State Department and the Fenster family, whom he represents in Congress. The Democrat from suburban Detroit predicted that Fenster eventually will be freed.
“We will get Danny out, because the Fenster family will not give up," Levin said.
The National Press Club announced Monday that Danny Fenster will receive the 2021 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award, which recognizes journalists who bravely push to disclose the truth in trying circumstances.
This story has been corrected to show that in the quote by Buddy Fenster, he said the family wouldn’t stop until they “get” him home, not “bring,” and to show that in the quote by Andy Levin, he referred to the “Fenster family” not the “Fensters.”