Editorial: Dear Putin, journalism is not a crime


Evan Gershkovitz, an American journalist with the Wall Street Journal, was on a trip to Yekaterinburg when he was detained by Russian authorities on charges of espionage March 29, according to the New York Times. A judge ruled he will remain detained until his trial April 18, an unsurprising but still upsetting move.

Reversing Gershkovitz’s detainment and ensuring his safe return to the United States should be a priority, as freedom of the press is vital to democracy across the globe.

Gershkovitz’s lawyers and the Wall Street Journal denied all claims made by Russia.

“Evan is wrongfully detained, and the charges of espionage against him are false,” the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones said in a statement. “We demand his immediate release and are doing everything in our power to secure it.”

Gershkovitz has not been allowed access to visitors, including his lawyers, while detained at Lefortovo prison in Moscow. His case is the first time a Western journalist has been charged with espionage in Russia since the Cold War, according to the New York Times.

The U.S. State Department released a statement April 17 saying Gershkovitz was wrongly detained and implied that the case could lead to the further repression of oppositional voices in Russia.

“We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth,” Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, said in the statement.

Gershkovitz’s deplorable treatment in the custody of Russian authorities shows the lack of respect Russian President Vladimir Putin has for journalists, in addition to the fact that Gershkovitz’s detainment is questionable in the first place. It sets a dangerous precedent and shows that Putin puts his own power above the civil rights of the press.

“Russia is sending the message that journalism within your borders is criminalized and that foreign correspondents seeking to report from Russia do not enjoy the benefits of the rule of law,” a letter written by top editors across the globe to Russian officials said, reported by the Times. 

Journalists are vital to holding people, governments and entities accountable for their actions. Without journalists, we would never know about Watergate or Harvey Weinstein or the Catholic Church abuses. Russia’s actions show that they are not afraid to censor their way to victory. This move is a direct attack on the truth.

Journalism serves to inform the public. Now more than ever, we must hold truth to power. We need to ensure that information is accessible to all, and the only way to do this is through tedious but truthful journalism. While it isn’t always the easiest battle to fight, we need to defend our journalists.