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Journalism Is Not A Crime. The Unjust Arrest Of Any Reporter Is Unacceptable.

The American Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter, was arrested by Russian security services on March 29. Accused of espionage, he is the first American journalist detained in Russia on such charges since the Cold War. At present, he is detained in one of the most gruesome prisons in Russia, the notorious Lefortovo jail. He was taken from a café in Yekaterinburg (some 1,800 kilometers east of Moscow) and brought to the Russian capital city for a closed hearing reported ABC News. The Russian Court denied his appeal and refused to grant bail announced NBC in a breaking news bulletin.

Evan Gershkovich is dedicated to on-the-ground reporting. He quit his job as a news assistant at The New York Times to move to Russia and to report about ongoing events. He was living in a tent to be able to report about wild fires in the Siberian Woods. During COVID-19 times, Evan Gershkovich spent time in a Moscow hospital writing about how the medical staff is coping with the situation. He worked for The Moscow Times, an English-language newspaper, the AP news agency and lately for The Wall Street Journal. These prestigious media outlets are some of the most revered companies for keeping high ethical standards. No journalist can imagine to be employed by these media if they do not obey strictly to the truth and accuracy, fairness, impartiality, accountability and humanity rules of ethics. 

Just one day before his arrest, Evan Gershkovich published an article together with Georgi Kantchev in The Wall Street Journal under the title: “Russia’s Economy Is Starting to Come Undone.” The report is a sharp analysis of present day economic situation in Russia as the country continues its war against Ukraine. In their article, besides citing officials of various international think tanks and agencies, the two reporters quote President Putin himself, a former Russian Central Bank official and billionaires that worn publicly about Russia going out of cash, raw materials next year if Putin continues his war and, also, losing money at present for selling oil and gas for low prices in China and India.

Evan Gershkovich was in Yekaterinburg at the time of his arrest to research information for another article about the situation of the Russian military reports The New York Times. Together with Isabel Coles, Evan Gershkovich already published an article in WSJ about the situation in Ukraine. Under the title “Ukraine Says Front Lines Around Embattled City of Bakhmut Are Stabilizing” the two authors report about the situation at the end of March, in Eastern Ukraine. Although no Russian military official would give any interview, the two journalists succeeded to present a fair report by using quotes given by Ukrainian officials but, at the same time, they described the context, using statements made by the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, threatening Russian weapon producers to work faster. President Putin who announced that Russia would finish building a storage facility for its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus by July. It is obvious that the authors offered a detailed and balanced view on the situation without bias. Now, for his professional activity, the young journalist is facing hard jail time in Russia. 

Evan Gershkovich could be sentenced up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. Because 99% of those arrested are found guilty in Russia, it appears that the best chance for Evan to return safely to the USA is to be accepted by Russian authorities for an exchange of prisoners said Roger Carstens, representant for the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affaires in a feature report of ABC News. The US administration and US President Joe Biden condemned the detention of Evan Gershkovich. The US Ambassador in Moscow was standing on Evan Gershkovich’s side during his first appearance in front of the judge on April 18.

Immediately after the arrest The Wall Street Journal launched the campaign #IStandWithEvan. “Journalism is not a crime. The unjust arrest of any reporter is unacceptable” wrote WSJ on instagram publishing images with dozens of colleagues of Evan wearing T-shirts with the logo #IStandWithEvan. Sadly, from the 1,658 views since April 18, only 24 thumbs up were countered and few of the comments essentially approve of his arrest!

Several colleagues of Evan Gershkovich from WST posted on Youtube a short collage encouraging him to keep up his spirit and promising him not to stop asking for his release until he will return safely in the USA. Unfortunately, after five days since posting the collage, from 5,7 thousand views only 118 thumbs up were counted and just 8 comments. Out of these, one is sending Evan to seek justice at the International Court, one is accusing him for having been in Russia at all and another one is connecting his case with the American female basketball player that was arrested in Russia on completely different charges only to be released for an exchange for a notorious Russian warlord detained in the USA.

Evan’s parents fled the Russian Federation more than 40 years ago and found shelter in the USA. “I am not losing hope. Until we meet soon. Vania.” was Evan’s message from prison, written in Russian, to his parents on April 5. Evan will appear in front of the judge this month while his parents are trying to stay optimistic. Looking obviously under great stress, the father of Evan Gershkovich said in an interview for ABC News, three weeks ago: “I trusted his judgment. I feel I failed as a father”. For sure, having a son courageous enough to seek the truth as a professional journalist and to report about his findings, he did not fail as a parent.

Evan is surely not alone in his quest to prove his innocence. Among numerous colleagues and high US officials, he is supported also by the Jewish Federations of North America. The Association launched the campaign #EvanGershkovich.

Journalists are at a fork road in their profession. As a result of the competition of social media, accountable journalism lost in its popularity. The public seem not be able to differentiate between professional journalists and those who post opinions, misled or promote fake news for their own benefit. Besides campaigns to rescue courageous journalists, professional journalists need to educate the public. Journalists risk their lives so the rest of the world has the chance to learn about the truth regarding situations, people, and events. Someone must take on the responsibility to restore the importance of media literacy among the general public.    

“I believe in happy ending. That is where we stand right now. But I am not stupid. I understand what is involved, but that is what I choose to believe” said Evan Gershkovich mother for ABC News. Journalists from around the world feel the same and support all the efforts that are made to free Evan Gershkovich.

Edited By: Kyenila Taylor

Photo credit: AFP

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