(Official Washington Examiner editorial, March 30)  For over a year, Russia has wrongly imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. This is egregious behavior but not an isolated example, and the United States must step up its efforts to counter a deplorable pattern of behavior.

Gershkovich is no spy. He is just a good journalist who filed a straightforward report on Russian economic woes. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin knows this. Like all bullies, he is fond of showing he can abuse people with impunity and wants to intimidate critics.

This newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Hugo Gurdon, and its national security columnist, Tom Rogan, have been listed for many months by Russia as suspected “terrorists” merely for writing supportively of Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s warfare. On March 7, Russia issued an arrest warrant for Rogan, who remains stateside and thus, as Rogan dryly wrote in a Wall Street Journal column, “outside Moscow’s jurisdiction.”

Unfortunately for Gershkovich, he remains very much in Putin’s clutches in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison. Businessman Paul Whelan also remains wrongfully detained by Russia, where he has been held since 2018 under apparently bogus espionage charges. These two are suffering not through any fault of their own but because Putin is a monster.

Numerous international conventions specify that journalists, in particular, should be afforded protections, including while they work abroad from their homelands, as “the work of a free, independent and impartial media constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society.” Despite Putin’s authoritarian rule, Russia still claims to be a democratic society, but its treatment of Gershkovich reveals the claim as a malicious fiction.

We are grateful to the Biden administration for speaking on behalf of Gurdon and Rogan, with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby saying their targeting is evidence that “free speech” is something “Mr. Putin finds offensive or inimical to his own selfish interests.” The administration has rightly been even more outspoken about Gershkovich’s imprisonment, and the Wall Street Journal said the administration on the diplomatic front “has worked actively for Evan’s release.”

The Wall Street Journal has done an admirable job keeping up unyielding advocacy of Gershkovich’s release, including the powerfully eloquent blank space on the front page of Friday’s print edition, marking where an article by the reporter should be appearing. But it needs more help….. [The full column is at this link.]


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