“We are deeply concerned about the arrest of Daniel Fenster, a U.S. citizen working as a journalist in Burma,” a State Department spokesman said Friday. “We put pressure on the military to release him immediately and will continue to do so until he is allowed to return home safely to his family.”
Fenster, 37, originally from Detroit, works for Frontier Myanmar, a news site in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.
A State Department spokeswoman said consular officials at the U.S. embassy “tried to meet with Daniel but have not yet been told by government officials.”
“We urge the Burmese government to provide consular access to the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs without delay, and to ensure that Daniel receives proper treatment in the event of his arrest,” the spokesman said.
“Free and independent media is essential to building a prosperous, flexible and independent society,” the spokesman said. “The detention of Daniel Fenster and the arrest of other journalists by the Burmese army and the use of violence are unacceptable attacks on freedom of expression in Burma.”
Frontier Myanmar said in a statement earlier this week that the newspaper did not know why Fenster was arrested and added: “We are concerned for his well-being and call for his immediate release. Our priorities are now that he is safe and he is needed To provide necessary assistance. “
Frontier Myanmar also learned that Fanster had been transferred to Insen Prison near Yangon. Insein is one of the most notorious prisons in the country, known for its deplorable condition.
Feinster’s brother, Brian Feinster, said earlier this week that the family did not know much about his brother’s condition.
“I can only assume that he was a journalist in a country run by the army that he wanted to control. He was flagged as a journalist at the airport. I can’t imagine why,” he said. “He had valid work documents, valid visas, passports, everything. He had voluntarily left the country to visit his family, so we don’t understand what happened.”
He said his brother was going to the United States to surprise his parents, whom he had not seen in more than two years. The family was concerned about the security of becoming a journalist in Myanmar after the military coup in February, and Brian called it a “nightmare” after hearing the news of his detention.
The junta has sought to silence the country’s media by revoking independent publishing and broadcasting licenses, raiding newspaper offices and targeting journalists. According to the reporting agency, 85 of the thousands arrested were journalists.
Fenster is one of many foreign journalists arrested after the beating.
CNN’s Johnny Hallam and Sharif Page contributed to this report.