Fenster's family keep pushing Myanmar to release detained Detroit journalist

Carol Thompson
The Detroit News

Family members of journalist Danny Fenster gathered Tuesday to mark the 100th day the Detroit area native has been imprisoned in Myanmar and continue pushing for his release.

"I'm cracking here," his brother Bryan Fenster said during a Tuesday virtual press conference. "But at the same time, it's been 100 days, and I feel we're still as hungry and have our fists clenched as hard as we did on day one."

Danny Fenster, 37, is managing editor of the independent magazine Frontier Myanmar, where he has worked since August 2020. He was detained by Myanmar authorities May 24 as he was boarding a flight from Yangon to Detroit. 

Danny Fenster

He has not been charged with a crime, but appears to be under investigation for what is known in Myanmar as a 505-A charge, his brother said.

Frontier Myanmar described the charge as one "widely used against journalists, activists and social media users." It carries a prison sentence of up to three years, the magazine said in a June 17 statement

Myanmar has been under military rule since February, when forces violently took control from the elected government. Officials have continued to crack down on protesters and journalists.

More:Detroit area's imprisoned journalist Danny Fenster ‘a free spirit’

Danny Fenster, the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, was dedicated to telling the stories of persecuted people around the world, his family said. He covered homelessness in California, interviewed the grieving parents of homicide victims and traveled to southeast Asia to learn about the persecution of Rohingya Muslims.

His continued imprisonment exemplifies the injustice other journalists, activists and citizens face from governments who "want to control their narrative," his brother said. 

"There's no way we're just going to sit here and let it work itself out," Bryan Fenster said. "We're fighting for him. The world needs to know about him. Not just who he is as a person, but this broader story about press freedoms and democracy, open societies."

Fenster has not had contact with his family since Aug. 1, when in a phone call he told them he believed he had lingering symptoms from a COVID-19 infection. He had not been given a test or vaccine. 

He sounded strong and had maintained his sense of humor, according to family members. 

There has been no progress in the government's case against Danny Fenster, said Washington-based attorney Jeremy Pelofsky, who is working with his family in the United States.

Court proceedings are delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The American Embassy has not been granted access to virtual hearings. 

Although the long fight for Fenster's freedom has been challenging, Danny's parents, Rose and Buddy Fenster, remain optimistic.

"We believe we can get this done," Buddy Fenster said. "We're going to stay tough. We're going to feed off Danny's strength and (his wife) Juliana's strength, too, for that matter, and we're going to get him home."