Detroit area native working as journalist for Myanmar magazine detained

Associated Press

Bangkok — An American journalist from Metro Detroit working for a news magazine in Myanmar was detained Monday by the authorities there, his employers said.

Frontier Myanmar, which publishes in both English and Burmese and also online, said on Twitter that Danny Fenster, its managing editor, was detained at Yangon International Airport as he was preparing to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It said the magazine did not know why Fenster was detained and had not been able to contact him, but it understood that he had been taken to Insein Prison in Yangon, which over decades has housed thousands of political prisoners.

Danny Fenster

The junta that took power in February after the army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi has arrested about 80 journalists, roughly half of whom remain detained awaiting charges or trial. Fenster is the third foreign journalist to be detained, after freelancers Robert Bociaga of Poland and Yuki Kitazumi of Japan, both of whom were expelled.

According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which keeps a detailed tally of arrests and deaths since the military takeover, almost 4,300 people are in detention, including 95 who have already been sentenced.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit group that promotes press freedom and the safety of journalists to report the news worldwide, issued a statement on its website calling for Myanmar authorities to "immediately and unconditionally release Frontier Myanmar managing editor Danny Fenster and allow him to travel freely outside the country."

“This unlawful restriction of a foreign journalist’s freedom of movement is the latest grave threat to press freedom in Myanmar,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative.

Fenster is a 37-year-old native of the Detroit area who joined Frontier Myanmar in August 2020. Dateline Detroit, a news website to which he was an occasional contributor, said he had been en route to see his family back home when he was detained.

It said he has a master’s degree in creative writing from Detroit’s Wayne State University, and had worked for a newspaper in Louisiana before moving to Southeast Asia.

“He has a fascination and passion for writing about folks who struggle and fight for social justice,” brother Bryan Fenster in the Detroit area told The Associated Press. “He was very interested in what was happening with Rohingya people there. It’s a delicate, complex situation. … We hope he’s safe. Such a shame.”

Rohingya Muslims fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar for Bangladesh in 2017 during a major crackdown by the military.

Frontier Myanmar is one of two established English-language media outlets in Myanmar still allowed to publish, along with The Irrawaddy. Two others, Myanmar Now and Mizzima, were banned but continue to operate underground.

“We don’t have much to add beyond what we said in the statement,” Thomas Kean, editor-in-chief of Frontier Myanmar, told the AP.

The U.S. Embassy in Myanmar was unable to provide details about any such incident because of privacy considerations, said its spokeswoman, Aryani Manning.

Detroit News staff contributed to this report.