Stateside Podcast: Michigan journalist freed from Myanmar
On Friday, we considered the possible need for new tactics for the U.S. to secure the release of Michigan-born journalist Danny Fenster from his imprisonment in Myanmar since May. He had just been sentenced to 11 years of hard labor on alleged charges that included violating immigration law and encouraging dissent against the military. He also faced newly raised charges of sedition and terrorism, which can carry life sentences in Myanmar under its current military regime.
Just three days later, seemingly suddenly, Fenster was freed today. “There started to be some rumors circulating a couple of hours before he was actually released,” said Andrew Nachemson, a friend and colleague of Fenster’s at Frontier Myanmar who is currently based in Thailand. Former diplomat and past governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson was in Myanmar last week for face-to-face meetings with the regime’s Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, on a mission to talk about COVID. He negotiated Fenster’s release.
It was the last step in a months long process. “The suddenness of the release shouldn't fool people,” said U.S. Representative Andy Levin (MI-09). “It was the result of steady patient work by career diplomats and folks in the intelligence and diplomatic community around the world.”
On today's Stateside podcast episode, April Baer talks with both Nachemson and Levin about Fenster’s release, and where this saga leaves journalists still in the region as well as U.S. relations with the regime. Fenster was the seventh journalist known to have faced conviction since the military seized power from elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February, and he faced the most serious sentence so far, but more remain imprisoned.
Congressman Andy Levin is a Democrat representing Michigan’s 9th congressional district.
Andrew Nachmenson is a journalist covering politics and human rights in southeast Asia.
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