SPJ calls for release of Wall Street Journal reporter and all imprisoned journalists
Claire Regan, SPJ National President, firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoë Berg, SPJ Communications Specialist, 317-920-4785, email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists strongly denounces the arrest by Russia of Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich and calls for his immediate release.
“The arrest of Evan Gershkovich for doing his job as a well-respected journalist underscores how dangerous it is to be a journalist in Russia,” said SPJ National President Claire Regan. “This appears to be an act of retaliation against Gershkovich for his reporting on Russia. It may also be an attempt to intimidate foreign journalists covering Russia, who are much needed as the war with Ukraine continues and Russia limits coverage by its own journalists.”
The arrest came shortly after a series of articles detailed the impact sanctions have had on the Russian economy. Russia was sanctioned after its invasion of Ukraine. According to media reports Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains. The Russian prosecutors said he was trying to obtain information about businesses in the area, which they claim were suppliers to the Russian military.
Gershkovich was charged with espionage, however, the Journal ‘vehemently denies’ allegations against him. These charges have not been issued against an American journalist since 1986 when Nicholas Daniloff of U.S. News & World Report was arrested by the then KGB. Daniloff was later released in exchange for a Soviet diplomat arrested by the FBI.
Reporters face up to 15 years in prison for discussing the invasion of Ukraine as a war. A number of Western news outlets left Russia rather than risk the arrest of their reporters. The Russian government has criticized Western reporting on the war in Ukraine as “fake news” and racist. It has also blocked Facebook and Twitter in the country.
“Since the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government has not only threatened and harassed foreign reporters, it has also banned all news outlets not slavishly dedicated to the Putin regime,” said SPJ International Community Co-chair Dan Kubiske. “The Kremlin appears to be engaged in a full-court press to ensure that only its message about the invasion gets out.”
SPJ not only demands the immediate release of Gershkovich, it also call for the immediate release of the other 20-plus journalists arrested for “doing journalism.”
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