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Media: Moscow court rejects US reporter Gershkovich’s detention appeal

A Moscow court has dismissed the latest appeal made by American journalist Evan Gershkovich against his pre-trial detention in an espionage case.
The Red Square in Moscow. Credit: The Center for European Policy Analysis
Media: Moscow court rejects US reporter Gershkovich’s detention appeal

A Moscow court has rejected the latest appeal by American journalist Evan Gershkovich against his pre-trial detention in an espionage case that he and US authorities have rejected as false, according to Al Jazeera.

Evan Gershkovich, a 32-year-old correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison for over a year following his arrest during a reporting assignment, yet a trial date remains elusive. Both Gershkovich, his newspaper, and US authorities vehemently refute accusations that he is a spy.

Last month, Gershkovich’s detention was extended until 30 June. He’s the first Western journalist in decades to face spying charges from Moscow. However, Russian officials haven’t shared details of their case, only stating he was caught “red-handed” in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg last March. Additionally, Russia has hinted at ongoing discussions regarding a potential prisoner swap involving Gershkovich.

In 2022, Gershkovich joined The Wall Street Journal, where he reported on various topics, including Russia’s war against Ukraine, its economy, and Kremlin politics. However, Moscow’s strict laws targeting independent news made reporting on Ukraine increasingly perilous, Vox reports. Consequently, many Western journalists and media organizations covering Russia were compelled to leave the country, with outlets like the BBC’s Russia bureau relocating to Riga, Latvia, and TV Rain moving to Amsterdam.

Since the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian journalists have faced even more severe challenges. An investigation by Reporters Without Borders revealed that between 1,500 to 1,800 Russian journalists were forced into exile during this period.

Despite having proper accreditation from the Russian foreign ministry to work as a reporter, Gershkovich, as reported by his newspaper, encountered surveillance by the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) during his assignments. The FSB’s monitoring included filming him at work and dissuading potential sources from engaging with him.

The US has repeatedly accused Moscow of using US citizens as pawns to secure the release of Russians jailed abroad for severe crimes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has hinted publicly that Moscow desires the release of a man, accused by Germany of working for the Russian state, who allegedly assassinated a Chechen rebel commander in Berlin, as part of a potential deal to secure Gershkovich’s freedom. However, Russian officials have maintained silence regarding further details of these negotiations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that any discussions concerning swaps must be conducted with utmost confidentiality, emphasizing the need for absolute discretion.

Recently, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom has voiced concerns over Moscow’s court decision to reject the appeal of imprisoned Gershkovich to end his pretrial detention.

“The detention of Gershkovich – a US national – while carrying out legitimate work as a journalist serves as a stark reminder of the threats faced by journalists reporting in and about Russia. Journalists must be free to carry out their work without threat of persecution,” said the organization.

In a statement, it said that it strongly condemns the arbitrary and unjust detention of any journalist and today reiterates its call and that of the Council of Europe’s Safety of Journalists Platform to immediately and unconditionally free Evan Gershkovich.

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