A court in Myanmar (Burma) has extended the pre-trial detention of journalist Danny Fenster to September 20. The Detroit Free Press recalled that Fenster had been arrested at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was preparing to travel to the Michigan home of his parents.

Fenster has been accused of incitement and could receive a three-year prison sentence if found guilty, according to the Detroit Free Press and WDET, an NPR station in Detroit. The news organizations noted that Fenster had been the managing editor of the online publication Frontier Myanmar.

The Detroit Free Press said that the Myanmar court had held a hearing on September 6, when it was decided that Fenster's case would be heard on September 20. The paper added that Fenster's lawyer had not been present at the hearing, which was conducted by video due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The danger of COVID-19 in jail

WDET quoted Fenster's brother, Bryan Fenster, saying the coronavirus was "running rampant" in Myanmar, "especially in the prison where Danny’s being held. He’s unvaccinated." The Detroit Free Press said Danny Fenster had told his lawyer that he thought he had COVID-19. The paper also quoted a Myanmar prison official, Chan Aye Kyaw, saying Fenster did not have COVID-19. WDET said the Committee was seeking Fenster's release to Protect Journalists and the U.S.


'Journalism is not a crime'

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price called for Fenster's release on September 1. "Journalism is not a crime," said Price, adding that the arrests of Fenster and other journalists was "an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression in Burma." He said the State Department had talked with Fenster over the phone on August 27.

"We are also regularly in touch with the Fenster family," Price said. He stressed, "We continue to press Burma’s military regime to release Danny immediately. We will do so until he safely returns home to his family."

2021 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award

The National Press Club awarded this year's John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award to Fenster and Haze Fan, a news assistant for Bloomberg in China.

The organization's website explained that the award was given to one American journalist and one foreign journalist. The National Press Club noted that Fenster had previously worked for a publication called Myanmar Now but had quit 10 months before his arrest. The organization recalled that Fenster and Fan "exemplify the importance of reporting hard truths and perseverance even in dangerous conditions. We will continue to advocate for their freedom and for their work as part of the press corps."

WDET recalled that Fenster had grown up in the Detroit suburb of Huntington Woods. The Fenster family is in the district of Congressman Andy Levin, who has expressed support for Danny Fenster on Twitter under the hashtag #BringDannyHome.