The family of US journalist Danny Fenster appealed to the Myanmar military regime on Tuesday for his release, as they marked his 100th day of imprisonment by the military.
Fenster is believed to have contracted Covid-19 during his detention and appeared to be suffering from “brain fog” and a loss of taste and smell during his last call with family members Aug. 01 but had not been tested, his mother Rose Fenster said.
There has been only limited communication with her son in Myanmar even as efforts are made by the US embassy and others to secure his freedom, Mrs. Fenster said in a conference call with American journalists.
“It’s been a tough 100 days – it’s hard to believe it’s 100 days – but we are grateful for our community’s support,” she said.
The journalist’s father, Buddy Fenster, said he was optimistic about the prospects for his son’s release.
“They haven’t charged him, and I think that’s something,” he said.
Danny’s brother Bryan Fenster added that the journalist was not an activist or even a working reporter but “someone who was sitting behind a desk.”
Based on recent calls, Bryan Fenster said, “his voice sounds strong… he still has a sense of humour which is amazing but you can feel and hear the anxiety and frustration in his voice at the same time.”
The family’s appeal comes days ahead of Fenster’s upcoming Sept. 06 hearing, with no clear information about the next steps.
Fenster, the managing editor of the Frontier Myanmar news outlet, has been under investigation under a law criminalising dissent that carries a maximum three-year jail sentence.
The 37-year-old was detained on May 24 at the international airport in Yangon, Myanmar’s main city, as he tried to board a plane out of the country.
He had been working for Frontier for around a year and had been heading home to see his family.
The State Department said last month that the US embassy was denied requests to see Fenster.
“No reason was given for the filing of the charge against him,” the statement said.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military seized power in a Feb. 01 coup, with near-daily protests and a huge civil disobedience movement.
More than 850 civilians have been killed across the country in an ongoing military crackdown, according to a local monitoring group.
The press has been squeezed as the junta tries to tighten control over the flow of information, throttling internet access and revoking the licenses of local media outlets.
The junta revised its penal code soon after the coup to include spreading “fake news” as a crime. (Source: The Straits Times)