Wall Street Journal Marks One Year Since Evan Gershkovich’s Arrest in Russia

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, on April 18, 2023.Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.Today marks one year since Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Russia on what American officials say are false charges of espionage. He has been held in jail ever since.
Members of Russia’s Federal Security Service—the country’s intelligence agency, also known as the FSB—detained Gershkovich while he was on a reporting assignment in the city of Yekaterinburg, according to the Journal. Gershkovich had deep familiarity the country: his parents fled the Soviet Union in the 1970s. He had full press credentials from Russia’s foreign ministry and had reported from Moscow for Agence France Press and the Moscow Times before joining the Journal in January 2022. Russia has not publicly presented evidence of its espionage claims against Gershkovich, the Journal reports. 
Since his arrest—which marks the first time an American journalist has been held on such charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War—Gershkovich has been in Russia’s notorious Lefortovo prison, where he spends 90 percent of his day in a small cell, according to the paper. Earlier this week, a Russian court extended Gershkovich’s pre-trial detention by three months, until June 30. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the extension, calling it “another cynical affront to press freedom by the Russian authorities.” 
In a letter published today, Journal editor-in-chief Emma Tucker called Gershkovich’s detention “a blatant attack on the rights of the free press,” adding that “given the lessons of history and the arbitrary power of the Russian state, if there is a trial, we would expect a guilty verdict—something we would view as a travesty of justice.” A conviction could carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years, the Journal reports.
Roger Carstens, the Biden administration’s special envoy for hostage affairs, told the New York Times that the US government is involved in “intensive efforts” to secure the releases of Gershkovich and ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who has been in Russian custody since 2018 and was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges, which American officials also deny.
The Journal dedicated its front page to Gershkovich today, leaving much of it blank under the headline, “His story should be here,” alongside other stories on his detention and the threats authoritarians pose to journalists around the world. (More than 520 journalists are imprisoned worldwide, according to the group Reporters Without Borders.)

Here is an early look at the front page of a special section wrapping today’s Wall Street Journal https://t.co/kTxN0a0m6N pic.twitter.com/X8C54alCiH
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) March 29, 2024

The Journal also hosted a public, 24-hour read-a-thon, which streamed live on social media, of Gershkovich’s work, with participants such as NBC’s Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell, ABC’s David Muir, and CNN’s Jake Tapper and Kaitlan Collins.
In a statement released today, President Joe Biden said he will “never give up hope” of freeing Gershkovich.
“We will continue working every day to secure his release,” Biden said. “We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips. And we will continue to stand strong against all those who seek to attack the press or target journalists—the pillars of free society.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also acknowledged the anniversary of Gershkovich’s arrest, noting that “Russia has provided no evidence of wrongdoing for a simple reason: Evan did nothing wrong. Journalism is not a crime.” 
Gershkovich’s parents have said “he’s doing the best he can under the circumstances, and the circumstances are very hard.” The reporter sends his parents letters weekly, his mother, Ella Milman, added in an interview with Tucker in January. They told the Times he also plays chess with his father over email and reads books recommended by friends.
In the meantime, we’ll echo something you’ll probably hear a lot of today: Journalism is not a crime. 

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