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Politics Brother of U.S. journalist detained in Myanmar calls on Biden to intervene

19:15  10 june  2021
19:15  10 june  2021 Source:   nbcnews.com

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WASHINGTON — The family of Danny Fenster, a U.S. journalist detained in Myanmar two weeks ago, is calling for President Joe Biden to personally intervene as independent efforts to reach him have failed, his brother said in an interview on Wednesday.

a man standing in front of a building © Provided by NBC News

“We have heard from everybody with the exception of the White House,” Bryan Fenster, Danny’s brother, told NBC News.

Bryan Fenster said the family has been "working our tails off" to contact his brother without results. While acknowledging the diplomatic efforts by the U.S. government, he wants Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris to use their megaphone to apply pressure.

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“We’re doing all we can. Our government is doing all we can; but it’s like yelling into a black hole. They’re not replying, they’re not using any diplomatic channels,” Bryan Fenster said. “There doesn’t seem to be any direct contact with them.”

Fenster is the managing editor at Frontier Myanmar, one of the country’s leading independent news outlets. In February, the military overthrew the democratically-elected civilian government, leading to civil unrest, protests and a severe crackdown on demonstrators.

The 37-year-old was detained at the Yangon International Airport in Myanmar trying to fly home to Michigan more than two weeks ago, according to the family. Frontier Myanmar said in a statement on Twitter that they believed Fenster was taken to Insein Prison in Yangon, a a notoriously brutal jail.

The Americans locked up in Myanmar's notorious Insein prison

  The Americans locked up in Myanmar's notorious Insein prison Since the military seized power on February 1, more than 5,900 people have been detained by the junta's security forces, and a majority remain in detention, according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Of those, at least 87 are journalists, with 51 still in detention, Reporting ASEAN documented. Life in Gen. Min Aung Hlaing's post-coup Myanmar has become near impossible for media workers, with many forced into exile abroad or fleeing to rebel-controlled areas in the jungles as they expose the junta's crimes. Those who remain in the cities have gone into hiding and swap safe houses every few days to avoid arrest.

Myanmar’s military government has arrested thousands of people since a February coup in an attempt to crackdown on opposition. The Biden administration has imposed sanctions and called on the military to restore the democratically-elected government.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand estimated in May that Fenster was one of over 70 journalists detained in Myanmar since February.

a couple of people that are talking to each other: Image: The parents of detained journalist Danny Fenster, from left, Buddy Fenster and Rose Fenster and brother Bryan Fenster in Huntington Woods, Mich., on June 4, 2021. (Jeff Kowalsky / AFP - Getty Images) © Jeff Kowalsky Image: The parents of detained journalist Danny Fenster, from left, Buddy Fenster and Rose Fenster and brother Bryan Fenster in Huntington Woods, Mich., on June 4, 2021. (Jeff Kowalsky / AFP - Getty Images)

U.S. officials have yet to make contact with Fenster and don’t know what charges he is facing, according to U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich. and the Fenster family. His wife, Julianna, who is in Yangon, has also been unable to see him.

Levin said having Biden weigh in is “an option" that could "happen at some point," but strategical it may be better to let Myanmar "save face" before the president gets involved.

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  Myanmar releases US journalist Nathan Maung, who was allegedly tortured in prison American citizen Nathan Maung, who has been detained in Myanmar since March 9, was released and deported to the United States on Tuesday after charges against him were dropped, his lawyer said. © Handout Journalist Nathan Maung, left, with his colleague Hanthar Nyein. Nathan Maung is co-founder and editor​-in-chief of the Myanmar online news site Kamayut Media and had spent more than two months incarcerated in the country's notorious Insein Prison, north of Yangon. He was arrested alongside co-founder and producer Hanthar Nyein, a Myanmar national, as security forces raided their offices in early March.

Daniel Bastard, director of Reporters Without Borders’ Asia-Pacific desk, said such a communications black out was "unusual."

“It is totally unusual indeed, even by Myanmar junta standards,” he said in an interview

In the case of Yuki Kitazumi, a Japanese reporter recently released after being charged in Myanmar with “false information,” Bastard said, “we knew very quickly what he was officially jailed for.”

Myanmar-born U.S. citizen Nathan K Maung, with Kamayut Media, who is in touch with his lawyer, was allowed a virtual visit with the U.S. State Department, according to Reporters Without Borders.

“We have a precise timing of the next hearings, the charge he faces and may face in the future,” said Bastard of Maung. “About Danny, as far as I know, we have nothing,” he said.

Two reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were working for the news wire Reuters, were detained in 2017 and jailed by the Myanmar government for more than 500 days after reporting about the killing of Rohingya Muslims during a military crackdown.

Levin has been on the phone every day with officials and ambassadors from neighboring nations who may have a contact with the military junta, to no avail, the congressman said. Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, in a call last week with national security adviser Jake Sullivan, also mentioned Fenster's case, the governor said in a statement.

Levin, meanwhile, pressed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about Danny Fenster's case in a hearing this week on Capitol Hill.

“We’ve not had access to Daniel Fenster. That’s a violation, among other things, of the Vienna Convention. We are pressing this in every way that we can,” Blinken said in response during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Monday.

The Detroit News issued an opinion on June 8 calling on Biden to “send a strong and clear message” that the detention of Fenster and others won’t be tolerated.

“Fenster must be produced by Myanmar authorities immediately to verify that he has not been tortured, and the process of getting him back home must proceed without delay,” the News' editorial board wrote.

Photos Show Smoldering Ruins of Myanmar Town, Burned to Ground by Government Troops .
"We think it isn't over. We will shift to other villages. Even if we go back to our village, there is no place to stay because everything is burnt," a villager told the Associated Press.The unnamed resident of the now-destroyed Kinma village in central Myanmar said he believed military forces came to search for members of a village defense force in opposition of the country's ruling military junta. The local defense force told residents of the troops' arrival beforehand and after homes were searched, the troops destroyed the village.

usr: 1
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