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Russia: UN Experts Call For Immediate Release Of Journalist Evan Gershkovich

GENEVA (28 March 2024) – UN experts* today condemned the continued arbitrary detention of Evan Gershkovich, a 32-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter and US-citizen who has been held without evidence for a year.

“Russian authorities have yet to provide any credible evidence to substantiate the egregious espionage claims against Gershkovich,” the experts said.

They recalled that Gershkovich, who was arrested in Yekaterinburg on 29 March 2023 and has since been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, faces unfounded charges of espionage. Russian authorities have detained Gershkovich for a year without any evidence or fair trial by a competent, impartial and independent court.

The experts noted that the Moscow City Court on Tuesday (26) extended Evan Gershkovich’s detention for another three months, until 30 June 2024. “This fits a well-documented pattern of Russian authorities using politically-motivated administrative and criminal charges that allow for multiple renewals of pre-trial detention, targeting dissidents and independent voices opposed to Russia's war on Ukraine,” they said.

“We are deeply concerned that even after a year, Evan Gershkovich has not been brought to trial. When pre-trial detention extends beyond one year without trial, it raises serious concerns about the presumption of innocence and the overall fairness of the legal process,” the experts said. “Anyone arrested or detained on criminal charges must be brought promptly before a judge and tried within a reasonable time or released.”

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“Gershkovich’s arrest is indicative of a disturbing trend in Russia, which has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of journalists—both Russian and foreign citizens—imprisoned for their work,” the experts said.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the number of imprisoned journalists in Russia has reached an all-time high, underlining the government's intention to control the narrative both domestically and internationally, they noted.

The experts also pointed out that, according to recent reports, 12 of the 17 foreign-national journalists detained worldwide are being detained in Russia.

“The detention of Gershkovich is emblematic of the general crackdown on free speech and journalism in the Russian Federation, particularly in relation to independent reporting on Russia’s war against Ukraine,” the experts said. “As journalists face imprisonment and threats, public access to independent and critical information has diminished,” they said. “We urge the international community to support independent journalists who courageously carry out their work both in Russia and from abroad.”

They noted that at least 30 journalists are known to be detained and facing lengthy prison sentences, including on spurious charges of so-called crimes such as “disseminating false information” and “discrediting” the actions of the Russian armed forces.

Since 18 October, another journalist with US citizenship, Alsu Kurmasheva, has also been arbitrarily detained in Russia. Kurmasheva, who worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, is accused of violating the provisions of the Russian law on “foreign agents” and may face additional charges.

“Gershkovich, Kurmasheva and all other journalists imprisoned for reporting from Russia must be released immediately and unconditionally,” the experts said, strongly condemning flagrant violations of international human rights obligations by Russian authorities.

*The experts: Mariana Katzarova, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression

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