Reporters from across the world rallied behind Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich on Thursday, decrying his arrest in Russia on suspicion of spying as “absurd” and “offensive.”
The 31-year-old American was hauled before a Moscow court earlier on Thursday and charged with espionage — marking the first time a US correspondent has been detained on spying accusations since the Cold War.
Gershkovich, who has reported from Russia for the last six years, is accused of trying to obtain classified information about one of the Kremlin’s military-industrial complexes, the Russian Federal Security Service claims.
News of his arrest sparked immediate outrage from fellow journalists, who called for his immediate release.
“Devastated, sad and angry at the egregious arrest of @evangershkovich who could not be a better journalist and liveliest, smiliest, most ebullient of people. Journalism is NOT a crime. Our [hearts] are broken and with you, Evan. If only you could see our support,” Sky News’ Moscow correspondent, Diana Magnay, tweeted.
The BBC’s Russia editor, Steve Rosenberg, said: “Evan Gershkovich is an experienced, well-respected journalist, officially accredited in Moscow. As the Wall Street Journal put it, he’s a ‘trusted and dedicated reporter’. For him to be facing espionage charges is simply unbelievable.”
Joshua Raffa, who covers Russia for the New Yorker, added: “Needless to say these allegations (offensive to even use the term) are an absurd fiction. Truth may not decide the case, but it still matters. Freedom to Evan.”
The UK Telegraph’s foreign correspondent, Nataliya Vasilyeva, said Gershkovich’s arrest set a “horrible precedent” for reporters in Moscow.
“Evan is an excellent journalist, a smart, fun and kind person. He has to be released immediately. Journalism is not a crime,” she tweeted.
Gershkovich, who pleaded not guilty during a closed hearing, was ordered to be held in custody for two months.
The WSJ said the case against their employee was based on a false allegation.
“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich,” the outlet said in a statement.
“We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”
If found guilty of espionage, Gershkovich could be looking at up to 20 years in a Russian prison.