An American journalist who was sentenced to prison in Myanmar for disseminating fake or incendiary information has been freed.
Danny Fenster was arrested at Yangon Airport on May 24 in connection with his role as the managing editor of online magazine Frontier Myanmar. On Friday, a court in military-ruled Myanmar found the 37-year-old from Detroit, Michigan, guilty of violating visa regulations, spreading false news or information that causes fear, and contacting illegal organizations.
Despite calls from rights groups and the United States for Fenster’s release, the court handed the journalist the maximum penalty for each of the three charges, ordering that he spend the next 11 years in prison with hard labor.
At the time of his incarceration in Insein Prison in Yangon, Fenster faced further charges of terrorism and treason that could have seen him locked up in Myanmar for life.
Fenster is one of seven journalists who are known to have been convicted in Myanmar since the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted by a military coup on February 1.
United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that since the military seized power, at least 126 journalists, media officials or publishers have been detained, of which 47 remain in detention, and 20 have been charged with crimes.
On Monday, Fenster’s release from prison was announced by former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who had been visiting Myanmar on a private humanitarian mission.
Richardson said Fenster will now travel back to the United States “through Qatar, over the next day and a half.”
Speaking to CNN Business, Myanmar’s military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun said that the journalist “has been released and deported. We will release details why he was released later.”
Fenster’s family said that they couldn’t wait to hold him in their arms.
“We are tremendously grateful to all the people who have helped secure his release, especially Ambassador Richardson, as well as our friends and the public who have expressed their support and stood by our sides as we endured these long and difficult months,” said the journalist’s family in a statement.