WSJ editor says without reporters like Gershkovich, ‘we live in a fog’

The Russian government is extending the detention of an American journalist it has accused of espionage.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has now been jailed for nearly 250 days, and the Russian courts have not disclosed any evidence supporting the allegations. 

The U.S. State Department has declared his detention to be wrongful, and his colleagues say he’s being held simply for being a journalist. 

As seen in video released by a Russian court, Gershkovich learned he’ll be stuck in a Russian prison until at least Jan. 30. The Kremlin has held the American reporter behind bars since March. The hearing took place behind closed doors because authorities say details of the criminal case against him are classified. The 32-year-old had been on a reporting trip in the city of Yekaterinburg when he was arrested in the spring. Russia’s federal security service accused him of “collecting information” tantamount to state secrets of a military-industrial business.

His colleagues say he’s been arrested for simply doing his job as a journalist and that the allegations are false. 

Paul Beckett, an assistant editor at the Wall Street Journal says “It’s really a time for defenders of the free press to stand up, stand with Evan, stand with reporters everywhere who put themselves in harm’s way. Because the consequences of not having that reporting really means that we live in a fog, and who knows where the world goes from there.”

Beckett describes the 32-year-old Gershkovich as an intrepid reporter, who leveraged his Russian cultural roots, his fluency of the language and love of his family to tell incisive, humanizing stories. 

“He loved being in Russia and he loved finding out everything he could about Russia. And that comes through in his reporting,” said Beckett. 

“One of the most impactful pieces that he did looked at the corpses that were returning from Ukraine on the Russian side. It just took a particular sensitivity to say there’s a poignant human story here and we’re going to report it,” Beckett said.

His employer and family are keen to keep attention on his story. President Biden on Thanksgiving was asked about Gershkovich’s detention and that of imprisoned American businessman Paul Whelan.

The president replied, “We ain’t giving up. We’re going to keep going until we get them.” 

The fate of detainees like Gershkovich is ultimately in the hands of diplomats and governments.

“We want to create an environment in which the U.S. government can figure out a way to get him back and the Russian government can finally release an innocent man,” said Beckett.