Family of Michigan journalist jailed in Myanmar hasn't heard from him in weeks, Levin says

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The family of a Michigan native held in a Myanmar prison has not heard from him in nearly a month as efforts continue to further the journalist's case despite "no promising developments" recently, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin announced Friday. 

"The urgency of our efforts has not diminished in any way — not Danny’s family, not our community, and not the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, not any of us," the Bloomfield Township Democrat said in a statement.

"We remain as committed as ever to bringing Danny home immediately and unconditionally."

Danny Fenster

Danny Fenster, managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was stopped by authorities at Yangon International Airport on May 24 before boarding a flight to Malaysia en route to Metro Detroit to visit relatives in Huntington Woods.

He faces an incitement charge that carries a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment.

The military-installed government that took power in February has tried to silence independent news media by withdrawing their licenses and by arresting dozens of journalists.

The U.S. government and press freedom associations have been pushing for his release.

This month, the State Department said Fenster hadn’t been in contact with U.S. officials for several weeks.

In July, his family and Levin, their congressman, raised concerns, about Fenster's health as the Myanmar prison experienced an outbreak of COVID-19.

Levin said at the time Fenster was not receiving adequate medical care and that Insein prison was experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak among staff and inmates, though prison officials claimed to have the situation under control. The U.S. Embassy was denied requests to vaccinate Fenster as the virus situation in the country worsened, Levin said.

The journalist told his lawyer he believed he had the virus, but prison authorities denied he was infected.

On Friday, Levin said he is in frequent contact with Fenster's family as well as the government, "and we are pursuing all possible channels to move Burma’s military authorities to release Danny."

Levin added that the COVID-19 situation in Burma "remains of grave concern," a prison lockdown continues and Fenster's family hasn't had contact with him since Aug. 1.

"He has had virtual hearings which we and even the U.S. Embassy sometimes learn about only after the fact, none resulting in any developments in the case and with Danny remanded back to prison each time," the congressman said.

On Monday, Fenster's brother, Bryan, said on Twitter that he had been imprisoned for more than 90 days and faces a hearing on Sept. 6.

"It’s absolutely insane (no pun intended) that we’re coming up to triple digits. Never in a million years could I have imagined something like this happening to someone I know, let alone to my own family," he tweeted.

A MoveOn.org petition has been launched calling on the government to seek Fenster's immediate release. It has garnered more than 42,000 signatures.