More than 300 journalists call for release of Evan Gershkovich

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More than 300 foreign correspondents who have worked in Moscow have written to the Russian government to call for the immediate release of Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter being held on espionage charges, saying his arrest sends a “disturbing and dangerous signal” about the country’s attitude to independent media.

Gershkovich, who was detained in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg last month on spying charges that carry a possible 20-year prison sentence, is the first US journalist detained on such charges since the end of the cold war. Both the Wall Street Journal and the US government has denied that he was involved in espionage.

The 301 signatories of the letter include the BBC’s Orla Guerin, the former New York Times journalist Bill Keller, John Kampfner, the executive director of the Chatham House thinktank and David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker. Between them, the journalists have worked for media outlets from 22differentcountries. The earliest signatory arrived in Moscow in 1964, while the most recent left in the past few weeks.

The letter, addressed to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, says the journalists are “shocked and appalled” by Gershkovich’s arrest and the subsequent charges laid against him, and urges the dropping over the charges and his immediate release.

“Evan Gershkovich has a long and impressive record of journalistic work,” it reads.

“We have no doubt that the only purpose and intention of his work was to inform his readers about the current reality in Russia. Seeking out information, even if it means upsetting political interests, does not make Evan a criminal or a spy, it makes him a journalist. Journalism is not a crime.”

It goes on: “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.”

Photo: WSJ correspondent Evan Gershkovich attends a court hearing of the Moscow City Court where they consider the demand of his defence to cancel his arrest, in Moscow, Russia. EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

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