Metro Detroit Journalist Danny Fenster Faces New Accusations of Unlawful Associations in Myanmar

​Bryan Fenster, Danny’s brother, says the new accusation of associating with people working against the government expands the range of options for Burmese authorities.

The wheels of justice are moving slowly for a Metro Detroit journalist who has been in a Myanmar prison for over four months.   

Metro Detroit journalist Danny Fenster, who has been locked up in a Myanmar prison since late May when he tried to return to the U.S., is now facing added accusations of violating that country’s Unlawful Associations Act. 

“We just want a timetable. We don’t have that. So all we can do is remain hopeful that he’s in person in the courts and they can move this thing along.”  –Bryan Fenster, Danny Fenster’s brother

Fenster, 37, is accused of associating with people who are working against the Myanmar government. The military took over the previously-Democratic country earlier this year. He has had several hearings, but little progress in settling his case. 

Fenster’s brother, Bryan, says the new accusations don’t affect Danny’s situation much.   

 “There’s no change in that charge per se. It just kind of expands the range of options for the Burmese authorities,” he says. 

A judge announced the new accusation Monday during Fenster’s hearing at the court in Yangon’s Insein Prison, where he is being held. Fenster’s lawyer said he was not given further details. 

The charge of unlawful associations has largely been used against ethnic rebel groups seeking greater autonomy. Sympathizers and even journalists contacting such groups have also been prosecuted. 

Fenster already was charged with incitement, also known as sedition, for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information. That offense is punishable by up to three years in prison. 

Bryan Fenster
Bryan Fenster

He is one of about 100 journalists imprisoned since Myanmar’s military took control of the country earlier this year. He was the editor of online-based Frontier Myanmar and was attempting to fly back to the U.S. when he was arrested in May. 

A quick resolution would be ideal, Bryan Fenster says.

“We feel like we’re wearing concrete shoes really. And it’s so hard to say because every case is uniquely different in Myanmar. And that’s all we want. We just want a timetable. We don’t have that. So all we can do is remain hopeful that he’s in person in the courts and they can move this thing along,” he says.  

Since his incarceration, Bryan Fenster says his brother has been riding a roller coaster of emotions. “He’s entitled to feel terrible. He’s gonna have good days and bad days. We all are and we’re just thankful he’s on the up right now.”  

The U.S. State Department and the Committee to Protect Journalists have been working to secure Fenster’s release.   

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.