Danny Fenster is one of many journalists who has been detained, imprisoned or expelled from the country since a military coup took over the government there in February.
On his way home for a surprise visit to see family and friends, native Detroiter Danny Fenster, 37, managing editor for Frontier Myanmar, was detained May 24 at Yangon International Airport shortly before boarding a flight to Kuala Lumpur and is being held in prison. He is one of many journalists who has been detained, imprisoned or expelled from the country since a military coup took over the government there in February.
Fenster’s brother Bryan, 39, of Huntington Woods, told the JN he was alarmed to see multiple messages from Myanmar on his phone early that morning from Fenster’s wife, Julianna.
The last time Fenster saw his brother was at a friend’s wedding in Krakow, Poland, in September 2019. He assumes the reason why his brother is being detained is that he is a journalist who has been covering the coup in Myanmar. Since then, Myanmar’s military government has arrested about 80 journalists, according to media reports, which state Fenster is the fourth foreign journalist to be detained.
Fenster said his brother, a graduate of Berkeley High School and a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and Wayne State University, had been working as a journalist in Asia for about three years. He had positions in Thailand and was working for another media outlet in Myanmar before the military government shut it down. Then he joined the staff of Frontier, an independent news site.
Bryan Fenster said Julianna is trying to arrange to visit Danny in Insein Prison, which has a notorious and well-documented reputation for its deplorable conditions for political prisoners.
“We do not know the exact reason why he is being detained or of his physical condition,” Fenster said in an interview with the JN. “The good news is that we’ve been able to get in touch with the right people. Local (Congressional) representatives, Gov. Whitmer and the U.S. State Department are aware, and they are working on it.”
On May 25, Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09), along with all 16 members of the Michigan congressional delegation, sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the State Department to secure Fenster’s immediate and unconditional release. The full text of the letter can be read at https://tinyurl.com/2tew6s3f.
In an interview with the JN, Levin said he spent a great deal of time last week speaking with Fenster’s brother, as well as the U.S. State Department and U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Thomas Vajda on May 25. Levin said Vajda is “leaving no stone unturned” in efforts to release the journalist.
“I was very reassured after speaking to Ambassador Vajda and learned all he is doing to win Danny’s release,” said Levin, who serves in Congress on the Foreign Affairs Committee and is the vice chair of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia and Nonproliferation. In March, Levin passed H. Res. 134 that condemned the military coup in Myanmar that received bipartisan support.
“Vajda has thorough, measured and strong experience in protecting Americans in every country he has served in as ambassador,” Levin said. “Washington is coming at this at all angles to release him.”
According to CNN, in February, the military detained Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her support of democracy. The military declared a state of emergency, claiming there was voting fraud in elections that Suu Kyi’s party had won, according to observers. The U.S. and other nations have criticized Myanmar’s military leaders for the coup.