U.S. journalist pretrial detention postponed by three months

After fifth detention extension, CPJ renews call for Russia to release US journalist Evan Gershkovich

CPJ (26.03.2024)—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Russia to immediately release U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich following Tuesday’s court decision to extend his pretrial detention until June 30, 2024.

“CPJ strongly condemns the three-month extension of Evan Gershkovich’s detention, just days before the one-year anniversary of his arrest on fabricated charges. Today’s ruling is yet another cynical affront to press freedom by the Russian authorities,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Russian authorities must immediately release Gershkovich, drop all charges against him, and stop prosecuting reporters for their work.”

The Moscow court’s decision to approve the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) request marks the fifth extension of The Wall Street Journal reporter’s detention since his arrest on March 29, 2023, on espionage charges. Tuesday’s session was closed to the media.

Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison, according to the Russian criminal code, and is the first American journalist to face such accusations by Russia since the end of the Cold War. Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal, and the U.S. government have all denied the espionage allegations.

“It’s a ruling that ensures Evan will sit in a Russian prison well past one year. It was also Evan’s 12th court appearance, baseless proceedings that falsely portray him as something other than what he is—a journalist who was doing his job,” The Wall Street Journal said in a statement.

The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, called the ruling “particularly painful,” as Friday will mark the journalist’s one-year detention.

“As we cross the one-year mark, the Russian government has yet to present any evidence to substantiate its accusations, no justification for Evan’s continued detention, and no explanation as to why Evan doing his job as a journalist constituted a crime,” Tracy said.

On April 11, 2023, the U.S. State Department designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained,” which unlocked a broad government effort to free him. 

Russia was the world’s fourth worst jailer of journalists with at least 22, including Gershkovich and Alsu Kurmasheva, a U.S.-Russian journalist, behind bars when CPJ conducted its most recent annual prison census on December 1, 2023.