Following is a statement from Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on developments in the wrongful detention of Wall Street Journal Correspondent Evan Gershkovich.
“It was encouraging that Secretary of State Blinken was able to get on the phone with his Russian counterpart Mr. Lavarov this weekend to discuss the case of Evan Gershkovich of the Wall Street Journal. The fact that they are talking is encouraging. We hope it means more progress and soon.
Something of great consequence happened last week in central Russia when Evan Gershkovich was unjustly detained by Russian security service. Not since the days of the Cold War has Russia taken a U.S. journalist hostage. For nearly 40 years, despite the ebbs and flows of tensions between our countries, our journalists have been able to operate without being arrested and imprisoned. Now that has changed.
This shocking turn of events has obscured some important aspects of the case. The first is that although the charge could not be of a more serious nature, Gershkovich has not been allowed to even meet the attorney the Journal has provided for him. When you hear news reports stating that Evan was in court and accompanied by his attorney, please know that is an attorney hired by the state. This, on its own, is massively unjust. We should stop using words like courtroom, lawyer, trial, charges to refer to this situation. This is a hostage taking.
The second important matter is that the Russians have announced Evan will be held until at least May 29. That is two months from now. So, any hope that this was a quick action has faded.
The third important matter is that consular visits have not been established. This is allowed by treaty, but, as with some of the other recent cases, there will be at least a period of time when Evan is on his own. This is an extremely challenging situation. What was Evan doing over there on the other side of the Ural Mountains, in a remote village near a tank factory? He was an American, traveling alone, interviewing sources in Russian, trying to find out how the economy was operating in this rural area.
Well, one thing he was doing was making the Russians very uncomfortable with what he was finding out. So much so, that they overturned 40 years of precedent. What he was doing was journalism and we can all learn something by just considering the courage and the craft on display in this case and what it means for our profession. Evan needs our support now. We intended to give him all we can. ”
Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. The Club has 3,000 members representing nearly every major news organization and is a leading voice for press freedom in the U.S. and worldwide.
Other news sources:
--Gershkovich is 31 years old and the son of Soviet-born Jewish emigres who came to the US in the late 70s. He is fluent in Russian and has been posted in Moscow and is an experienced traveler in Moscow. He is a U.S. citizen and a graduate of Bowdoin College.
--The American reporter for the Wall Street Journal was traveling alone on a reporting trip to an industrial city in the Ural Mountains called Yekaterinburg 1000 miles east of Moscow.
--Recent WSJ Article by Evan Gershkovich from Russia:
"Putin's War Rhetoric Rallies Russian Border Towns, but Nerves Fray"
Casualties haven't so far shaken town of Pskov, region that is home to elite paratrooper division that occupied Bucha.
Pskov in Russia is home to the 76th Guards Air Assault Division, whose paratroopers have been at the forefront of most major battles in the Ukraine.
Photo: Nanna Heitmann/Magnum for Wall Street Journal.
CLICK HERE for the rest of Gershkovich's March 1 report.