Courtesy of Presidential Executive Office of Russia via Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY 4.0

Wall Street Journalist, ​​Evan Gershkovich, was arrested in Russia on March 30 with charges of espionage. Gershkovich was on assignment through The Journal and denies the implications that simply claim he was, “caught red-handed.” Gershkovich previously lived in Russia and has reported on the country for several years without incident, and is accredited with the Russian Foreign Ministry, making this arrest further unjustified. In a country controlled by an authoritarian regime that is also anti-press, suppression of the media through the use of false narratives is dangerous for ongoing relations of diplomacy. 

Since the start of the Ukraine and Russia war, the Kremlin has imposed strict restrictions on journalists in the country reporting on the news in a way to bolster and somewhat uphold their image. Those reporting on the war are not allowed to use the phrase “war” and are instead prompted to refer to it as a “special military operation.” While these tactics were done to stifle the voices of journalists, most have still fought back with articles critical of Russia that are being published outside of the country to avoid following these absurd rules. 

The current arrest of Gershkovich, a U.S. journalist who is also an American citizen, on false charges, threatens the diplomatic relationship between the two countries. With the recent exchange of prisoners between WNBA player Brittney Griner and Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, it appears that Russia is using Gershkovich as a bargaining piece to secure more of their citizens who are being kept in the U.S. The exchange for Griner was the second Russian exchange to take place within a span of eight months showing that this method of imprisoning American citizens appears to be successful in releasing their prisoners. 

The Journal, along with other news outlets, are in support of Gershkovich. More than 30 press freedom groups and news organizations, including the Journal, The New York Times, BBC, The Associated Press, The New Yorker, Time and The Washington Post, signed a letter under The Committee to Protect Journalists. The letter was sent to Anatoly I. Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. 

In the letter, the news outlets call the arrest “unwarranted and unjust” citing that Gershkovich was in the country on assignment unrelated to classified information and was taken for purely political reasons. Journalists are already targeted around the world by governments and groups who oppose their views and wish to keep the truth from coming out. Gershkovich was simply in Russia doing his job and should not be punished for being in a profession that the Kremlin fears. 

With the Ukraine and Russian war ongoing, Putin seems desperate to change the country’s negative image and gain an upper hand in a war that he previously thought would be easy to win. Punishing and limiting the voices of journalists will not help him. If journalists do become suppressed, more will return to criticize Putin’s regime and the inhumane actions taking place in and by Russia. Gershkovich did not break the law or commit espionage and should be released without any conditions. He should not be used to make an example of or benefit the Russian government.  


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