The United States welcomes the recent release of journalist Nathan Maung, a United States citizen who was arrested on March 9 and imprisoned for months in a Burmese jail. Maung is the founder and editor-in-chief of the news website Kamayut Media. His Burmese colleague and website co-founder Hanthar Nyein remains in prison, charged with spreading misinformation, as the harsh crackdown against independent media in Burma continues.
Although Nathan Maung was freed and returned to the United States, another U.S. citizen, Daniel Fenster, remains incarcerated in Burma. Fenster works for Frontier Myanmar, a news and business magazine. He was on his way back to the United States for a family visit on May 24, when he was detained at the airport by Burmese authorities. At a press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price called on Burma’s military regime to allow Daniel Fenster’s safe return to the United States.
The detentions of the U.S. citizens are part of a wave of arrests of journalists in Burma following the military coup, which seized power on February 1, 2021. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, dozens of members of the press are behind bars, detained during raids by security forces at their offices, or while covering anti-regime street protests which swept the country following the coup.
Several Burmese journalists, including reporters Aung Kyaw, Zaw Zaw, and Min Nyo, were recently sentenced by military courts to prison terms of two and three years under an article in the penal code that criminalizes the dissemination of information that could cause disloyalty to the government on the part of security forces or civil servants.
In addition, military authorities revoked the licenses of news organizations and restricted access to the Internet.
State Department Spokesperson Price noted that a free and independent media “is indispensable to building prosperous, resilient, and free societies.”
“We have seen the junta in recent days attempting to stifle freedom of expression, freedom of assembly,” he declared. “And they do that knowing that only by suppressing the will of the Burmese people might they be able to retain some semblance of control.”
Mr. Price said, “We will be pressing the case for all journalists who are wrongfully detained in Burma for doing nothing more than their job, ultimately knowing that their job is protecting the freedom of expression of the people of Burma.”