American journalist sentenced to 11 years in Myanmar jail

Danny Fenster has been jailed in Myanmar since May when he was seized at an airport

Updated: November 12, 2021 - 8:33am

A Myanmar court convicted American journalist Danny Fenster on Friday of three charges and sentenced him to prison for 11 years, the harshest possible sentence for his crimes, which include immigrations violations.

After taking power during a February coup, the Myanmar military began imprisoning journalists, behavior that has been widely condemned by the global community. 

Fenster is also facing two far more serious charges of terrorism and sedition, which were just added and have not yet been heard by the court. Each crime carries a sentence of up to life in prison. 

At the time he was seized by authorities in May, Fenster was working as the managing editor for Frontier Myanmar, an outlet focused on the region. He was taken from the airport to the Insein Prison, known for its poor living conditions. 

During Fenster's trial, the prosecution made the case that official records did not correctly reflect where he was employed. Instead, prosecutors attempted to prove that he had been working for Myanmar Now, an outlet that was banned in the country after the coup.

Frontier Myanmar released a statement saying the court "disregarded a significant amount of evidence of his employment at Frontier, including tax and social security records and testimony from a Frontier employee."

"There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges. His legal team clearly demonstrated to the court that he had resigned from Myanmar Now and was working for Frontier from the middle of last year," said Frontier editor in chief Thomas Kean.

Frontier is an award-winning news and business magazine that publishes in both English and Myanmar. In October, however, the outlet announced it would be ceasing publication of its physical version, and temporarily halting online production, citing a hostile climate for journalism in Myanmar. More than 100 journalists have been detained in Myanmar since the coup, several dozen of whom remain imprisoned to this day as the military attempts to quiet all potentially critical voices.

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