BANGKOK (AP) — American journalist Danny Fenster, sentenced only days agoThe former U.S. ambassador to Myanmar has been released after 11 years’ hard work in Myanmar and is currently on his return journey. Monday’s statement by Bill Richardson, Ambassador to U.N.
Richardson stated in a statement, that Fenster was handed to him in Myanmar. He would then return to the U.S. through Qatar in the following day and a quarter.
“This is the day that you hope will come when you do this work,” Richardson said in a statement emailed from his office. “We are so grateful that Danny will finally be able to reconnect with his loved ones, who have been advocating for him all this time, against immense odds.”
Richardson said he negotiated Fenster’s release during a recent visit to Myanmar when he held face-to-face meetings with Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s military ruler.
Frontier Myanmar magazine’s managing editor was sentenced Friday to false or inflamatory information spreading, violating visa regulations, and contacting illegal organisations.
Fenster’s sentence was the harshest punishment yet among the seven journalists known to have been convicted since Myanmar’s military ousted the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in February.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the decision, saying in a statement that it was “an unjust conviction of an innocent person.”
Frontier Myanmar Editor-in-Chief Thomas Kean welcomed the news of Fenster’s release, while calling for the country’s military rulers to release all journalists still behind bars.
“Danny is one of many journalists in Myanmar who have been unjustly arrested simply for doing their job since the February coup,” he said.
The United Nations reports that at least 126 journalist, media officers, or publishers were detained by military personnel since February. 47 others remain detained, with 20 of them being charged with criminal offenses.
Six of the seven journalists convicted are Myanmar citizens, while four others were freed in an Oct. 21 mass amnesty.
Richardson served as Governor of New Mexico as well as secretary of Energy in the Clinton Administration.
He is best known for traveling to nations with which Washington has poor, if any relations — such as North Korea — to obtain the freedom of detained Americans.
He has recently been active in the search for freedom for American citizens held in Venezuela by Washington.
Richardson is a veteran of Myanmar involvement, having met Suu Kyi in her house as a U.S. Congressman back in 1994. She had previously been placed under house arrest under an earlier military government since 1989.
He last visited Myanmar in 2018 to advise on the crisis involving the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh after Myanmar’s military in 2017 launched a brutal crackdown.
Richardson stated that his recent trip to Myanmar had been focused on facilitating humanitarian aid, including the delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations.
He said his staff had been in touch with Fenster’s family, and when asked if there was hope for Danny Fenster’s release, he replied: “There’s always hope. Don’t ask any more.”
Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Fenster “never should have been jailed or sentenced on bogus charges in the first place.”
“Myanmar’s military regime must stop using journalists as pawns in their cynical games and release all the other reporters still languishing behind bars on spurious charges,” Crispin added.
Jon Gambrell from the Associated Press, Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this article.