US journalist’s conviction depicts media repression in Myanmar – UN rights chief


The conviction and harsh sentencing of journalist Danny Fenster by a military court in Yangon following a closed door, unfair trial is emblematic of the wider plight of journalists in Myanmar, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.

Media practitioners in Myanmar have been facing constant repression since the February 01 military coup with at least 126 journalists, media officials or publishers have been detained by the military of whom 47 remain in detention.

Twenty of these individuals have been charged with crimes because of their work as journalists. Nine media outlets have had their licences revoked and 20 others have had to suspend operations. Dozens of journalists reportedly remain in hiding due to outstanding arrest warrants.

Fenster was detained at Yangon airport in May, and was on Friday sentenced to 11 years in prison allegedly for violating laws relating to unlawful association, immigration and for sowing dissent against the military.

“Journalists have been under attack since February 01, with the military leadership clearly attempting to suppress their attempts to report on the serious human rights violations being perpetrated across Myanmar as well as the extent of opposition to the regime,” Said Ms. Bachelet.

“Myanmar has quickly reverted to an environment of information control, censorship and propaganda seen under military regimes in the past.”

Mr. Fenster, 37, is the managing editor of an independent magazine called Frontier Myanmar.  On Friday he was sentenced to 11 years in jail by a military court in Yangon, the country’s largest city.

The sentencing followed what Ms. Bachelet described as “a closed door, unfair trial”.  Mr. Fenster still faces a second trial with charges of high treason and violations of the country’s counter-terrorism law.

In deploring the persecution of journalists, Ms. Bachelet said that attacks against them further increase the vulnerability of huge sections of society who rely on accurate and independent information.

“With the crackdowns on journalists, internet shutdowns, restrictions on free access to online and other data sources, people are being deprived life-saving information,” she added.

“I urge the military authorities to immediately release all journalists being detained in relation to their work.” (Source: UN News)