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American journalist Danny Fenster has been imprisoned in Myanmar for months


Myanmar's military has been cracking down on dissent ever since the February 1 coup that ousted the government of Aung San Suu Kyi. She remains in detention. And so do dozens of journalists, including Danny Fenster, managing editor of the English-language magazine Frontier Myanmar. Michael Sullivan reports on his case from neighboring Thailand.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Last week, Danny Fenster had his eighth virtual court hearing on his 123rd day in captivity. It didn't end well. He was remanded back to prison, demoralized, his lawyer said. His family found out through the media.

BRYAN FENSTER: It was really, really surreal and heartbreaking and very frustrating.

SULLIVAN: Fenster's brother, Bryan.

BRYAN FENSTER: Learning through the papers, through the media that his spirits were crushed, he was deflated and disheartened, that was very hard, very hard for us.

SULLIVAN: He says it didn't get much better the next day when the family got a rare chance to speak with Danny from their Detroit-area home. For his parents, it was their first in nearly two months.

BRYAN FENSTER: It was very painful to sit there and try and find the words for him, to witness my parents just having such a hard time. Obviously, our words, it kind of seemed to be empty for Danny, and he wasn't really having it, which is understandable. We're here. He's there. Couldn't possibly begin to imagine how he's feeling and what he's going through.

SULLIVAN: Fenster is being held in the infamous Insein Prison, an aging, overcrowded facility on the outskirts of Yangon that's been home to many political prisoners for decades. The family thinks he got COVID there. He's not been tested, nor has he been vaccinated. Fenster is being held, but not yet formally charged, for incitement against the military. The family and the U.S. government insist he's done nothing wrong.


NED PRICE: Journalism is not a crime. The detention of Danny Fenster and other journalists constitutes an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression in Burma.

SULLIVAN: State Department spokesman, Ned Price.


PRICE: We continue to press Burma's military regime to release Danny immediately.

SULLIVAN: Fenster is among more than 6,000 people jailed by the military in Myanmar since the coup. Another 1,100 have been killed, according to the monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, even as the military escalates its attacks against an increasingly emboldened resistance against their rule. That's in addition to ethnic minority militias who've been battling the military for decades. Fenster's father, hockey fan Buddy Fenster, says he's in this for the long haul.

BUDDY FENSTER: I just want to quote a great philosopher, Darren McCarty. He played with the Detroit Red Wings. He said that tough times come and go, but tough people always stay tough. And we're just trying to stay tough, as tough as Danny is. And we're not going to stop till we get him home.

SULLIVAN: Danny Fenster's next hearing is scheduled for next week.

For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Chiang Rai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: October 6, 2021 at 10:00 PM MDT
A previous headline and introduction to this report misspelled Danny Fenster's last name as Fester.
Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.