Russia: EFJ and IFJ demand release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and their affiliates in Russia, JMWU, and in the United States, NewsGuild-CWA, call on Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Wall Street Journal reporter and U.S. citizen Evan Gershkovich, detained on Thursday in Yekaterinburg. He could face up to 20 years in prison as the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) says he was “collecting classified information”. Gershkovich is the first reporter for a US news outlet to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the cold war.
On 30 March, the FSB stated that it had detained Evan Gershkovich, a Moscow-based reporter with The Wall Street Journal, in Yekaterinburg. Later that day, a Moscow court ordered Gershkovich to be placed under arrest until May 29 on charges of spying for the U.S. government, according to a statement by the joint press service of the Moscow courts.
Gershkovich, 31, was detained during a reporting trip to the Urals city of Ekaterinburg. On Thursday, he appeared at the Lefortovo courthouse in Moscow for a hearing. The court ordered him to be held in pre-trial detention until at least 29 May.
“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich. We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family,” the newspaper said in a statement.
“The Russian authorities have clearly resumed the practice of high-profile arrests of foreigners in Russia,” said EFJ President Maja Sever. “This is in fact a hostage-taking and intimidating message directed at all journalists operating in Russia. We strongly condemn the despotic practices of the Kremlin and demand the release of Evan Gershkovich and the 39 other journalists imprisoned in Russia and occupied Ukraine”.
“The shameful arrest of Evan Gershkovich is another blatant attempt to shut independent voices in Russia,” said IFJ President Dominique Pradalié. “Putin must stop holding the press hostage. We demand Evan’s immediate release.”
“This is not the first time that baseless accusations have been used in Russia to prosecute a journalist,” reacted Andrei Jvirblis, secretary of the independent Russian journalists’ union JMWU. “In December, our colleague Ivan Safronov was sentenced to 22 years in prison for allegedly sharing classified information that was in fact available in the public domain. These bogus trials and unfounded prosecutions have only one purpose: to intimidate journalists.”
Gershkovich has lived in Moscow for six years and is accredited as a journalist with Russia’s foreign ministry. Prior to the Wall Street Journal, he had worked in Russia for the Moscow Times and Agence France Presse (AFP).
Before his arrest, Gershkovich was reportedly working on a story about Wagner, the Russian private military group run by the businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin.
At least 39 journalists are behind bars in Russia and occupied Ukraine, according to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism.
In Europe, six journalists are in prison on charges of alleged espionage:
- Evan Gershkovich, in Russia;
- Katsiaryna Andreeva, in Belarus;
- Pablo González, in Poland;
- Vladislav Yesypenko, in occupied Crimea;
- Ivan Safronov, in Russia;
- Julian Assange, in the United Kingdom.
The EFJ demands the release of all of them.