U.S. journalist Fenster leaves Myanmar after release from jail

epa08993113 A demonstrator holds a placard reading 'Give Back Our Democracy' and showing the three-finger salute, a symbol of resistance, as they march during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, 07 February 2021. Thousands of people took to the streets of Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, for a second day of mass protests against the military coup amid internet shut down imposed by military rulers. Myanmar's military seized power and declared a state of emergency for one year after arresting State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar president Win Myint in an early morning raid on 01 February. (Photo: EPA-EFE/LYNN BO BO)

Nov 15 (Reuters) - American journalist Danny Fenster was released from prison on Monday in military-ruled Myanmar and was on a flight out of the country, his employer said, three days after he was jailed for 11 years in a ruling that drew international condemnation.

Fenster, 37, the managing editor of independent online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was arrested in May and sentenced to prison on Friday for incitement and violations of immigration and unlawful assembly laws.

He was among dozens of media workers detained since the Feb. 1 military coup that triggered nationwide protests and strikes in an outpouring of anger over the abrupt end of a decade of tentative steps towards democracy in Myanmar.

The circumstances around Fenster’s release were not immediately clear. A spokesman for Myanmar’s ruling military council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Frontier’s editor-in-chief, Thomas Kean, said in a statement: “We are relieved that Danny is finally out of prison – somewhere he never should have been in the first place,”

“But we also recognise Danny is one of many journalists in Myanmar who have been unjustly arrested simply for doing their job since the February coup.

He called on the military government to release all the journalists imprisoned in Myanmar.

Fenster’s family and the U.S. Embassy in Yangon did not immediately respond to separate requests for comment.

He was the first Western journalist sentenced to prison in recent years in Myanmar, where the coup against the elected government led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has left the country in chaos, with the junta struggling to consolidate power and facing growing international pressure.

Human rights groups condemned Myanmar’s junta over the court’s sentencing, which came days after additional charges of sedition and breaches of a terrorism law.

The United States had been pressing for his release and at the weekend condemned the ruling as an “unacceptable attack on freedom of expression”.

The ruling junta has made no comment on the case since Friday nor responded to the international criticism, and state media has not reported on it.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty, Editing by Kay Johnson).


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