WSJ journalists at NAHJ conference advocate for the freedom of detained colleague Evan Gershkovich

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Buttons with, “Libertad para EVAN” in support of Evan Gershkovich’s release from Russian detainment at the NAHJ Miami 2023 International Convention and Training Expo in Miami, Fla., on Thursday, July 13, 2023. Gershkovich was detained by Russian Federal Security Services on charges of espionage in March 2023.

It has been more than 100 days since The Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia after being accused of espionage. 

With talks for a possible prisoner exchange to secure his freedom gaining momentum this week, Gershkovich’s colleagues attending the National Association of Hispanic Journalists conference in Miami have been advocating for his release.

Robert Barba, a news editor on the U.S. news team at The Wall Street Journal, said they are asking other journalists “to continue to elevate and keep Evan’s name in our thoughts and shared on social media using the hashtag ‘Free Evan.’”

”We, as a newsroom, have continued to rally behind him,” he said.

As part of that support, The Journal has been distributing buttons that say “Free Evan” and “Libertad para Evan” to journalists attending the conference.

“We all hope that he comes home soon, that there’s some sort of situation that allows for him to be released,” said Barba, who is also one of the leads at Mi Gente, an employee resource group of Dow Jones, The Journal’s publisher.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich who was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service on charges of espionage in March 2023. Photo courtesy The Wall Street Journal

The newspaper and the United States government have denied the espionage accusations and have called for his immediate release. 

Gershkovich covers Russia, Ukraine and the former Soviet Union for The Journal. The 31-year-old was arrested in March during a work trip in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. 

He is the first American journalist detained in Russia for espionage charges since the Cold War. 

Andrés R. Martínez, a senior editor for The New York Times in Seoul, was wearing a button in support of Evan while attending the conference.

“The work we do as journalists is difficult in and of itself,” Martínez said. “When it’s made harder to do our work, it can be really challenging.”

Gershkovich is not the only journalist who has been deprived of his freedom. 

A record number of journalists were jailed last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least 363 reporters were jailed for their work, most of them in Iran, China, Myanmar, Turkey and Belarus. 

“This is an issue that, as journalists, we all care about because we want to be able to do our work freely and independently,” Martínez said.

At least 67 journalists and media workers were killed last year, according to the CPJ. That was a 50% increase from 2021 and the highest number since 2018. More than half of the killings occurred in Ukraine, Mexico and Haiti. 

Amanda Barrett, the vice president of standards and inclusion at the Associated Press, said it’s “scary” to see journalists worldwide being threatened. 

For Barrett, it’s important to have a concerted effort across the industry to defend journalists.

“We can help when something does happen to them, if they are arrested, if they’re kidnaped or and how to support their families,” she said.

Chiara Eisner, a reporter in NPR’s Investigations team, said speaking out against the mistreatment of journalists is necessary to have a free and democratic society. 

“We are simply doing our jobs, we should not be persecuted,” Eisner said. “We are serving the public and we deserve to be treated with respect.”

Ammy Sanchez is a senior at Florida International University majoring in communications. She reports in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and is the producer of the South Florida Roundup — the Friday afternoon show at WLRN News. Reach her at ammysanchez001 [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter at @ammyelizabethh.

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