Journalists Call on Russian Authorities to Release Their Colleague

Published: 25 April 2023

Evan Gershkovich TwitterEvan Gershkovich (R), the Wall Street Journal reporter. (Photo: Evan Gershkovic/Twitter, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

More than 300 foreign correspondents from 22 countries called on Russian authorities on Monday to immediately release imprisoned Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. national.

“We are shocked and appalled by the arrest of our colleague, Evan Gershkovich, and the charges brought against him,” the international journalists said in their letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. They called on Moscow to “drop these charges and immediately release the reporter.”

The signatories include journalists with decades of reporting experience from Russia, with some arriving in Moscow as early as the 1960s and others having left Russia only recently.

Russian authorities arrested Evan Gershkovich, 31, on March 29 in Yekaterinburg while he was working on a report for the Wall Street Journal.

He was accused of spying for the United States, making him the first foreign journalist to be charged with espionage in Russia since the Soviet era.

Investigators claimed that he was “gathering information about one of the Russian military-industrial complex’s enterprises,” according to the Russian independent human rights watchdog OVD-Info.

“Evan Gershkovich has a long and impressive record of journalistic work. We have no doubt that the only purpose and intention of his work was to inform his readers about the current reality in Russia,” foreign correspondents said in their letter to Lavrov.

They emphasized that pursuing information, even if it involves offending political interests, does not make Evan a criminal or a spy, but rather a journalist.

“Journalism is not a crime,” read the letter.

Gershkovich appeared before the Moscow City Court last week, where the court upheld his arrest and denied his legal team’s offer to release him on bail and keep him under house arrest.

Following the court hearing, Gershkovich was transferred to Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, formerly known as the notorious KGB prison for political prisoners, and now serving as a detention center of Russia’s state security service (FSB) for those accused of treason, espionage, political corruption, and other high crimes.

Gershkovich may face up to 20 years in Russian prison if found guilty.

The arrest sends a disturbing and dangerous signal about Russia’s disregard for independent media and shows indifference to the fate of a young, talented, and honest journalist,” journalists warned.