HUNTINGTON WOODS, Michigan (WXYZ) – A Detroit subway journalist remains imprisoned in Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country, in a prison where journalists have been tortured.
Danny Fenster’s family says the Myanmar government does not allow any access, so it can be assured that the 37-year-old is fine. The Huntington Woods man worked for a news organization called Frontier Myanmar.
“Journalists are the eyes and ears of the world. He is deeply concerned about people, especially the oppressed and destitute. And that was what I was doing in Myanmar, ”said Bryan Fenster, Danny’s brother. “He was telling his stories.”
Bryan says his brother wrote about how the people of Myanmar barely had a sense of democracy. Then, in February, the military arrested democratically elected leaders and seized power. Violence followed. The Political Prisoners Assistance Association says more than 800 people have been killed and thousands detained during political unrest.
Danny Fenster is believed to be in Insein Prison in Yangon, a prison where other journalists have been tortured.
Some wonder if a change in the law driven by a U.S. congressman in Michigan helped fund for a time what is happening in Myanmar.
“What is the purpose of Huizenga, representative Huizenga, who is leading this effort to undo anti-corruption and transparency measures?” asks Brendon Thomas, a Western Michigan man who has worked with Earth Rights International, a human rights and sustainability organization operating in Myanmar.
Brendon Thomas criticizes the involvement of U.S. Representative Bill Huizenga (R-District 2) in changing the Securities and Exchange Commission’s requirement that U.S. oil and gas companies share information about agreements with foreign governments.
Thomas says that through his work on the House Financial Services Committee representative, Huizenga helped change section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. It required oil and gas companies to disclose extraction agreements made with foreign governments.
Thomas says he allowed Chevron to potentially participate in funding the military coup in Myanmar without transparency.
“This is important because without this funding from the extractive industries, the corrupt anti-democratic regime in Myanmar cannot exist. It cannot be maintained without funding to buy weapons and ammunition to commit these abuses, ”said Thomas.
Chevron posted a statement on its website about the company’s position on what is happening in Myanmar condemning human rights abuses.
“The benefits of the continued presence of American businesses in Myanmar have been debated. We believe that responsible companies like ours that work to protect the human rights of their employees and support local communities with basic human needs, including health, education and energy, have a role to play in Myanmar today and in the future.We also believe that any action we take in breach of agreements and laws can open the door for another company not to share the our values take our place, ”Chevron said in a statement.
Chevron announced in late May that it is suspending some payments that could reach the Myanmar board.
Representative Huizenga’s office says the change allows U.S. companies to compete globally and calls for Danny’s release.
“Section 1504 has nothing to do with Mr. Fenster’s abduction. In addition, the United States has continued to expand sanctions against the illegitimate leadership of the board in Myanmar, making it illegal for any financial transaction or business of U.S. companies to take place legally, ”said Brian Patrick , communications director of the Huizenga representative.
Patrick went on to criticize any coverage of citizens questioning the decision to push for getting rid of the norm by saying, “This is irresponsible ‘journalism’ at best.”
“Activists working to achieve transparency, to understand how the military is funded to commit these human rights violations that have occurred since February 1, and even before, need to have transparency,” Thomas said .
Meanwhile, Danny’s loved ones are focused on doing everything they can, from posting on social media to selling these t-shirts to publicize his situation, hoping to take him home.
“Think about your children. If they were in this situation, what would you do? said Tim Downey.
“We want to be there for the Fensters and we just want to take Danny home,” Jess Downey said.
“Really our strength comes from our friends and our community,” Brian said.
If you want to follow the posts of family and friends on social media, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/1164768597279223.