Several dozen friends and supporters of incarcerated former Daily Iberian reporter Danny Fenster gathered Sunday evening to share stories and prayers in calling for the detained journalist’s swift return from a Myanmar prison cell.
The group came together on the plaza in front of New Iberia’s City Hall, luckily slipping between bands of drizzling rain that had moved across the area Sunday afternoon.
Several speakers took to the podium to tell their stories of meeting and working with Fenster. Community organizer Phanat Xanamane talked about the reporter’s commitment to social justice issues, while Robbie Carrier-Bethel talked about her bond with Fenster and their shared sense of sibling-ness, one that extended to Fenster’s brother when he ventured to New Iberia.
Iberia African-American Historical Society founder Phebe Hayes spoke about the time she spent with Danny, and his desire to help communities of color by bringing awareness to their causes, contributions and needs while growing his understanding of the nuances of the cultures around him while the Detroit native was immersed in the Teche Area.
The vigil came days before Fenster is scheduled to appear in a special court on July 1. He had his first hearing, and his first appearance in public since being detained in May, on June 17.
Fenster, 37, was detained at the Yangon Airport on May 25 as he prepared to board a flight to Kuala Lampur on his way home for a surprise visit to his family in Detroit. His charging hearing came after 25 days in detention with no word on his treatment or condition from Myanmar officials.
The law Fenster is charged under, Section 505-A of the Myanmar Penal Code, was put into place on Feb. 14 as the ruling military junta cracked down on dissent after it seized power on Feb. 1. According to Frontier Myanmar, the news website and magazine where Fenster serves as managing editor, Section 505-A has been widely used against journalists, activists and social media users in the months since democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was deposed.
The charge carries a prison term of up to three years.