Danny Fenster, editor of independent magazine Frontier Myanmar, was charged under the Unlawful Associations Act on October 4. Fenster was previously facing charges of sedition under the penal code, an offence which could see him imprisoned for up to three years. He has remained in pre-trial detention since his arrest on May 24, which authorities have declined to justify and international advocates and the IFJ continue to condemn as a violation of his rights.
Myanmar’s so-called Unlawful Associations Act is being used as a means to moderate communications with groups deemed criminal after the military coup on February 1, 2021. The list of illegal groups includes popular opposition organisations that represent Aung San Suu Kyi’s overthrown government.
On September 30, Myanmar’s junta defended Fenster’s arrest and detention without providing details of the allegations against him. “As for journalists, if they do only journalist’s work, there is no reason to arrest them. Danny Fenster did more than just what a journalist does,” said Major General Zaw Min Tun.
The United States government has called for the immediate release of Fenster. “The detention of Danny Fenster and other journalists constitutes an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression in Burma,” State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said.
Myanmar’s junta has grown increasingly hostile towards the media since the coup, with over 100 journalists arrested by authorities to date, 53 of which remain in custody.
According to Freedom House’s 2021 annual Freedom on the Net report, internet freedoms in Myanmar have plummeted by 14 points, the largest decline ever recorded in the report’s history.
The IFJ said: “We condemn the use of draconian laws to silence expression. The IFJ calls for the immediate release of Danny Fenster as well as for the release of all other media workers enduring detention in Myanmar; arbitrary detentions as a punitive means of silencing dissent must end.”