Frontier Myanmar Managing Editor Danny Fenster can be seen in this handout picture taken in Yangon, Myanmar, in November 2020.
The military regime that recently seized power in Myanmar has blocked virtually all attempts to reach Danny Fenster, a US journalist who has been detained there for more than a week without explanation.
His family want him to know that they are doing all they can.
Amid the silence of the Myanmar authorities, Window’s relatives have communicated with US officials, spoken to the media and recently launched a petition and website to raise awareness and press for his immediate and unconditional release.
“He probably has no idea about these efforts that are being made for him,” Bryan Fenster, Danny’s older brother, told CNBC in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “It’s the worst situation imaginable, but we’re incredibly proud of him and he’s a hero to many people.”
“My heart aches for all the families who have ever been through something like this,” said Danny’s mother Rose Fenster, who was also in the conversation. “But as a mother and he’s my son, I just won’t sleep until he’s home safely.”
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Danny Fenster, a 37-year-old Michigan native and executive editor of Frontier Myanmar news magazine, was arrested at Yangon International Airport on May 24 before boarding a plane to Kuala Lumpur.
His family says he was on his way home to Huntington Woods, near Detroit, to surprise them after more than three years of absence. But little else is known about why Danny was arrested and transferred to Insein Prison in Yangon, a supposedly harsh prison with a long history of holding political prisoners.
It is not known whether Fenster will be charged, and neither his magazine nor US officials have been able to contact him directly.
“That’s the hardest part,” said Bryan Fenster. “We’re going on day 9 and you still have to answer.”
He said the first time he heard about his brother’s imprisonment, “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, where do you even start?'”
“I got into combat mode pretty quickly,” said Bryan Fenster. “A quick breath of panic or two, but we’re just getting down to business.”
“I think I stopped breathing,” said Rose Fenster of her own reaction, calling it a “total out-of-body experience” that was “gutted” and “heartbreaking”.
But she said she found solace in “knowing my son Bryan and other close family members are working on it,” along with the support of the community that “only stopped us.”
That work includes a just launched website instructing visitors to raise awareness by sharing information on social media and signing a petition from MoveOn.org that had more than 20,000 signatures as of Tuesday.
Frontier Myanmar Editor-in-Chief Danny Fenster is pictured in this undated handout received on May 25, 2021. The 37-year-old American is currently in custody in Myanmar.
The family also sells T-shirts with the hashtag #BringDannyHome and an appeal to “Protect The Press”. The family said they plan to let Danny Fenster decide where to donate those proceeds once he’s exempt.
They also said that they talk to Fenster’s wife, who is in Myanmar, several times a day.
MP Andy Levin, D-Mich., Told CNBC in an interview that the government had confirmed the transfer of Danny Fenster to Insein, although consular access to him – a requirement under the rules of the Vienna Convention – has still not been granted has been.
Levin, who represents the congressional district where Window’s Family lives, drafted the House of Representatives resolution condemning the February coup in Myanmar. Levin is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and vice chairman of the Asia, Pacific, Central Asia and Non-Proliferation Subcommittee.
The day after the arrest was announced, Levin listed all 16 members of his state delegation in a letter asking Foreign Minister Antony Blinken to clear windows.
“It’s very, very personal to me,” Levin said, adding that he and Danny and Bryan Fenster attended the same high school.
In a statement Tuesday, a State Department spokesman told CNBC that Myanmar had been pressing “to release him immediately and will continue to do so until he is safe to return to his family.”
“Free and independent media are essential to building prosperous, resilient, and free societies. The arrest of Daniel and the arrest and use of force by the Burmese military against other journalists constitute an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression in Burma, ”the statement said.
The Myanmar Embassy in Washington did not respond to CNBC’s request to comment on Fenster’s detention.
Fenster isn’t the only American journalist held in Insein Prison: In March, authorities arrested Nathan Maung from the online news site Kamayut Media, along with his co-founder Hanthar Nyein.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the Myanmar Embassy in Washington did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.