Judges in Myanmar on Thursday extended the detention of Danny Fenster, a jailed US journalist who faces a possible prison term for spreading “fake news.”
Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, an online news magazine, has been charged under a law that bans encouraging dissent against the military, which seized power in a February 1 coup.
He was later remanded to the Insein prison in Yangon and is expected to appear in court again on July 1.
The law punishes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news, or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee.”
“We know that Danny has done nothing to warrant this 505-A charge,” Frontier said Thursday. “We condemn his detention and demand his immediate and unconditional release.”
Fenster appeared in good health during his appearance, according to his lawyer, Frontier editor-in-chief Tom Kean told the AFP news agency in an interview.
The US State Department has said it is “deeply concerned” about Fenster and urged for the 37-year-old’s release.
He was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he prepared to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, en route to the Detroit area to see his family.
Press crackdown in Myanmar
Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said as many as 90 journalists have been arrested since the junta took power and roughly half of the journalists remain in custody.
The authorities have also taken to throttling the internet in a bid to stem the flow of information.
Another US journalist Nathan Maung was released on Monday after officials dropped similar charges against him.
He was detained in March while working for a local news agency.
In the 2021 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Myanmar was ranked 140 out of 180 countries. Since the coup, the Paris-based organization said journalists in Myanmar “face systematic arrest campaigns and censorship.”
Junta seized power over electoral ‘fraud’
Myanmar’s military took over the country’s democratically elected government in a coup on February 1, unleashing a massive protest movement against its rule.
Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders from National League for Democracy (NLD) were detained over allegations of electoral fraud.
Earlier this week, Suu Kyi stood trial on a number of charges.
The 75-year-old Nobel laureate stands accused of violating coronavirus regulations while campaigning for the election she won last November and for possession of unlicensed walkie-talkies.
She is also facing other more serious charges including intent to incite, breaching the official secrets act and charges for accepting $600,000 (€495,000) and 11.4 kilograms (25 pounds) worth of gold from Yangon’s former chief minister.
jf/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)