Myanmar Court Gives US Journalist 11 Years Jail and Hard Labor

After he was found guilty on Friday on several charges, including spreading false information, Myanmar court sentenced the American journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison with hard labor.

Fenster’s lawyer Than Zaw said that he was found guilty of incitement for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations, noting he was sentenced to the maximum term on each charge.

Fenster – who has been detained since May when he attempted to return to the US – has not decided if he will appeal since, on top of this, he still faces two additional charges in a separate court in Yangon for allegedly violating the counterterrorism law and a statute covering treason and sedition.

The additional charges are punishable by a maximum 20 years in prison each.

The 37-year-old American journalist was managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, and is the only foreign journalist convicted of a serious crime since Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government was booted of in February and the military seized power.

Amid the coup, the military junta in the country has cracked down hard on the freedom of the press, arresting dozens of journalists critical of its crackdown on dissent.

The US government has joined the calls of number of journalists groups, including the outgoing Editor-in-Chief of Frontier Myanmar, Thomas Kean, for Fenster’s release claiming there is absolutely no basis to convict him of these charges.

The US State Department’s spokesperson stressed Fenster’s continued detention is unacceptable, pointing that journalism is not a crime.

The deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, called Fenster’s jailing outrageous and noted his intentions to send warning messages to the media and the US, pointing that the junta aims to shock and intimidate all remaining Burmese journalists in Myanmar by issuing such outrageous, rights abusing sentence to a foreign journalist.

Robertson believes that the sentence has also a second message to the US that the junta doesn’t appreciate the economic sanctions and threatens to bite back with hostage diplomacy.

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