Evan Gershkovich and the Perils of Journalism Post Assange Persecution 90

Russia should release Evan Gershkovich; if as part of a prisoner swap it should be speedily concluded.

Gershkovich was arrested in Ekaterinburg while investigating the Wagner Group. Ekaterinburg is one of Russia’s grimmest, most mafia dominated and least open cities, which I have myself visited specifically to investigate the murders of local Russian journalists.

That was dangerous enough without the complications of a war and the fact Gershkovich was planning to visit the location of a nearby tank factory (it is unclear whether he got to carry out this plan).

I am not in the least surprised he was arrested, but I would have hoped he would simply be deported, or have his visa cancelled like Luke Harding. A journalist from a country openly supplying the enemy in an active war could hardly complain if deported. It is part of the game.

Let us not forget that Russia is still allowing western journalists to operate inside Russia, while most countries in the West, including the UK, have closed down all Russian media outlets and canceled the visas of their journalists.

But to charge Gershkovich with espionage for – from what we know so far – simply doing his job, is a major escalation.

I am going to assume Gershkovich was not actually working for the CIA or Ukrainian intelligence. No evidence has so far been produced of this and, so far, I have not seen Russia allege it. If alleged, it would change the game in some respects, but I for now assume that is not in play and Gershkovich was merely functioning as a journalist.

The Biden Administration’s problem is that it is in no position to object. Julian Assange is being charged with espionage solely for journalism: there is no allegation he was working for a foreign power.

If Assange committed espionage against the USA by publishing national security secrets of the United States, how exactly is Gershkovich not committing espionage against Russia by seeking to publish what it deems its national security secrets?

The answer is of course, that neither committed espionage. They are just doing journalism. But it is an answer the Biden administration cannot give whilst pursuing the prosecution of Assange.

I say this with no pleasure and I am as concerned for Gershkovich’s well-being as I am for Assange’s well-being.

But we warned again and again that the prosecution of Assange made life more dangerous for journalists operating in difficult conditions worldwide. We were ignored.

There is, in one sense, more justification for the prosecution of Gershkovich than for that of Assange. At least Gershkovich was actually in Russia when arrested. Assange is an Australian citizen whose activities were conducted entirely outside the USA, and is being extradited on an extraordinary USA claim of universal jurisdiction.

There are voices within the Biden Administration, and within the USA’s major media corporations, who have been pointing out the dangerous precedent that the Assange case creates. Hopefully those voices will be strengthened by the Gershkovich case.

But Gershkovich should be released. Just a young journalist doing his job.


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90 thoughts on “Evan Gershkovich and the Perils of Journalism Post Assange Persecution

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  • Jack

    What is the current (legal) situtation for Assange? On what legal merit is his case being dragged on? It is absurd!
    The whole situation is Kafka-like and I cannot imagine the mental toll from being politically harassed and incarcerated like this for years.
    So many years lost for Assange and his family. If he ever gets out he should demand a hefty financial payback from UK, Swedish governments.

    • Andrew H

      Assange is a has been. Nobody in the US cares what happens to him or how long this takes – and no politician is going to put the brakes on the legal system – because the more he is chewed up by the system, the better an example is made. He has no case against the UK government – this is the life he chose. (I don’t understand why people get upset over Assange, but not over some poor kid who makes some bad choices and lands up in some gang. Everyone who lands up in jail is innocent in some sense).

  • Tom74

    When our media trumpet too much that so-and-so is innocent or so-and-so is guilty, I tend to believe the opposite is more likely to be the truth, regardless of the circumstances. Perhaps it’s not the case this time, but I prefer to reserve judgement.

    • Jack

      It is like the western msm have turned into pushing narratives only: even if for example Putin says something that is true factually, it is not reported because it is a statement that does not fit the narrative western msm is pushing, and they won’t cover what he said.
      Sure Russian media of course also pushes narratives but it is also like the single big outlet out there doing that vs the big western hegemon media – hegemony on the other side that has total monopoly of what news is fit to print.
      No wonder the West banned RT, one of the most popular news/tv/show on Youtube at the time the censorship kicked in last year.

  • Bayard

    “The Biden Administration’s problem is that it is in no position to object. Julian Assange is being charged with espionage solely for journalism: there is no allegation he was working for a foreign power.”

    I don’t think that will slow them down for a nanosecond. When they do it, it’s different.

    • Andrew H

      Does Assange get a say in this? Sounds like an awesome plan. Will save the tax payer heaps on prison guards and lawyers. (I presume part of the deal is that he will stay in Russia with Snowdon – or as soon as he leaves extradition is back on?)

  • Jack

    Why travel so far east Mr Journalist? You could have stopped in Ukraine and got this genocidal scooping quote from the ukrainian regime instead and not become arrested for it:

    ‘Everything Russian’ must be eradicated in Crimea – Zelensky aide
    ““As soon as we enter, we must eradicate everything Russian in Crimea,” Podoliak stated in an interview with US government-controlled RFE/RL published on Wednesday. He argued that the predominantly Russian-speaking region should instead become part of the “Ukrainian cultural space.””

    More to the topic though, a swap with Assange would be great. This is the type of demand Russia should put forward more openly.

  • AG

    this I find really revealing:

    FINANCIAL TIMES reporting about complaints at a conference by the Bank of America about speakers who are considered too pro-Russia – because they are giving simple facts:

    “Bank of America cuts short conference after outrage at Ukraine comments
    ‘It was more like Bank of Russia than Bank of America,’ says one viewer, as bank calls online attendees to apologise”


    And this new piece on FOREIGN AFFAIRS, with new material about the Cuban Missile Crisis, free article:

    “Blundering on the Brink – The Secret History and Unlearned Lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis
    By Sergey Radchenko and Vladislav Zubok
    April 3, 2023”

    • Ucumist

      Blimey AG I even bothered to read that drivel on the Cuba missile crisis.
      How to pad out a big fluff piece of historical revisionism. Palm trees, bad planning etc.
      It’s called MAD and brinkmanship. You are putting missiles on my border so I will do the same.
      Here we are again with the US planning for the last 20 years to get missiles on the Ukraine border but Russia unable to put theirs on the Mexican border. The reality of MAD is slipping away and the world is no longer safe. What a stupid strategy.

      • AG

        In my post I tried to not presumptuously criticize the FA article for the very reason you mention. (“give FA a chance.”)
        Thus, I still have to read it.

        But I wasn´t sure how long the paywall is down so I posted it at once.

        It was propagated by the author himself on the Twitter thread of some known disarmement experts from the West.

        The racism aka prejudice towards everything Russian displayed there by several people is shocking to be honest.
        Whatever “the Russian” does it is per se not to be trusted.

        So whatever the Russians do, put the blame on them.
        The same sick attitude I have encountered when reading public statements by diplomats involved into Minsk I&II.

        Alas did that confirm my prejudice against diplomats.

        (CM shouldn´t take this personally. I know there are a lot of hardworking diplomats out there. But they are less likely to be interviewed by major outlets. And thus have no chance in influencing public opinion.)

        #1 above, the FT item, might be more worthwhile and is really short.

  • Peter VE

    That wily Putin: arresting Evan Gershkovich so Putin has someone to trade for his lackey Trump after he’s convicted of 34 felonies!

  • AG

    re: Moldova

    since this is from today,

    however no idea in how far its true, of course (after all for mounths now there were predictions concerning Moldova):

    source: https://t.me/legitimniy/15117

    #folding #MoldovanCase.
    Resident insiders that the Chisinau-Odessa visit by the head of British intelligence, is linked to the impending offensive by the AFU.
    According to our information in Chisinau, the British were discussing the issue of suppressing/discrediting/blocking the protest sentiments that partly prevent Maia Sandu from starting the “Transnistrian case”, in simple words unfreezing the military conflict.
    They also discussed preparations for a military/political/social provocation that would help unfreeze the Transnistrian case. This is an issue Head of MI6 Moore will discuss in Ukraine.

    We insinuated on 12 March that Zelenski tried to convince Maya to start the Transnistrian case in sync with the offensive by the AFU. By the way, colleagues confirmed this insider, pointing out that Sandu’s recent trip to Bucha was only a pretext, and it was the issue of provocation with the PMR that was discussed there.

    ⚡️⚡️ ⚡️#Inside
    Our source in the OP has said that a high-level delegation led by the head of MI6, Richard Moore, has completed its visit to Moldova. During the visit, meetings were held with Maia Sandu and ISS director Alexandru Mustiata.

    After Moldova…


    I just love British Intelligence and how they treat everything as if it were a game, still.

    (Another reason why I felt the movie “Operation Mincemeat” from last year to be such a disastrous disappointment. So much decency among the operatives, almost suffocating. And now they are likely to ruin another great adventure story, namely about Communist spy Ursula Kuczynski aka Agent Sonja. Haven´t seen “A Spy Among Friends” though. May be that´s better.)

    • Jack

      Speaking on Moldova, this recent article is hilarious.

      Not suspicious at all:…
      “EU sending anti-coup mission to Moldova in May to fend off “russian influence””

      Apparently EU influence however is just fine.
      EU have really become aggressive and active since the ukrainie crisis.

  • Republicofscotland

    The hypocrisy of these Senators is breathtaking to say the least when you consider what’s happened to the journalist Julian Assange.

    “Let there be no mistake: journalism is not a crime,” the senators write. “We demand the baseless, fabricated charges against Mr. Gershkovich be dropped and he be immediately released and reiterate our condemnation of the Russian government’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish independent journalists and civil society voices.”

    “A joint statement was published by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell condemning Gershkovich’s detention as a violation of press freedoms.”


  • AG

    The following text in the London Review of Books (Novels!) might seem far-fetched, but in light of how today’s youth appears to fall so easily for what we call propaganda there might be a closer cause-effect relationship to the failure of anti-war resistance.

    I don´t want to appear the Spenglerian type of pessimist which I really hate but students have often been an eminent part of such activism. What happens if this is no more?
    (On the other hand may be its not all that bad. One just has to change some method and teaching approach. After all the unraveling of the “canon” was not the end of things.)

    Philip Balboni about his experience as teacher in higher education (aka “everything is a novel” – I was told this is true also for Germany):

    Now the ever-so optimistic Noam Chomsky (a life-long teacher with never-ending patience and passion) responding to questions by – students in Princeton a few days ago:

    “A Conversation with Noam Chomsky — YDSA at Princeton University”
    Qs start at about minute 8.

    What surprises me most is the naïveté of people in general to “buy” stories that are apparently fiction but sold as fact /news/ etc.

    Especially with video. One would assume that in our age of images and videos individuals should have developed an intricate understanding of their true nature.

    It´s strange…

    And eventually this nice interview by Branko Marcetic:

    “Branko Marcetic Talks with Olga Baysha, Author of Democracy, Populism and Neoliberalism in Ukraine”, 26/3/23


  • AG

    Perhaps of limited insight, here Scott Ritter´s text on Gershkovich (Ritter does mention a few interesting sources), which turns out to be almost more about The New Yorker´s Masha Gessen:


    Gessen truly is sometimes puzzling when writing about Russian politics. Void of real arguments and proof in many cases.
    At least I made that experience last year reading some of her texts. In fact I always knew what would come.
    And rarely did she really offer much beyond “flavour”.

  • Jack

    Speaking on journalism.
    Western journalists did not say a word when media outlets ouside of the west got this label, well what goes around comes around:

    BBC livid after Musk label BBC ‘state funded’:
    The broadcaster insists that despite being financed by a mandatory fee, it’s not state-funded

    Is it not through the state that BBC get their funding regardless, if the money is labeled/framed fee/tax money?

    • AG

      thx for pointing at this.

      but that´s true on an all-encompassing ideological level concerning everything.
      state is good on every level but we won´t say it out loudly.
      so we can blame it on others.
      then it´s communist, or authoritarian, or feudal or whatever.
      (healthcare, media, economy, travel, education)
      It does differ from region to region whether all segments or just particular ones.

    • glenn_nl

      Just returned this to the library – “The BBC – myth of a public service” by Tom Mills. Well worth a read. If the BBC isn’t state broadcasting, the concept doesn’t exist.

      • Jack

        Thanks for the tip glenn_nl will look into that book. In a somehwhat similar vein I picked up this book recently:

        Propaganda Blitz shows the damning effect of spin in UK media, not just in right-wing newspapers like the Sun, Times, Daily Mail, and the Express, but also in trusted liberal outlets like the BBC and the Guardian. The book uncovers a storm of top-down campaigns behind war reporting from Iraq, Syria, and Palestine, as well as the media’s destruction of the credibility of figures on the left, including Jeremy Corbyn, Russell Brand, and Hugo Chavez.”
        Propaganda Blitz: How the Corporate Media Distort Reality, by David Edwards & David Cromwell, with foreword by John Pilger (Pluto Press, 2018).

        • glenn_nl

          Ah, cheers for that – I saw that book launch a few years back, and then forgot about it – it’s been a somewhat eventful few years.

          Not sure I’d put Russell Brand in the same category as Corbyn or Chavez though, particularly these days. He’s after that big Spotify money, and pals around with some pretty unpleasant right wing figures these days. He likes peddling conspiracy BS that the alt-right enjoy so much too. Totally sold out, in short.

  • Jack

    Has there been an official charge yet by Russia? Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but US state dept. put out a quite muted statement on Gershkovich:

    US journalist ‘wrongfully detained’ – State Department
    US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday officially declared Evan Gershkovich to be “wrongfully detained” by Russia. The Wall Street Journal reporter was arrested in Ekaterinburg last month and charged with espionage.
    “Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said in a statement.


  • AG

    Committee for US-RU Relations with a short statement demanding Gershkovich´s release, signed by known people like frm. Ambassador Matlock and Nicolai Petro:


    P.S. it appears as if it is some kind of statement to be handed over to the Russians on personal basis.
    Because in itself the statement is really only this. Nothing more. I doubt they would hope to truly mobilize thousands of people.
    It´s more a limited diplomatic effort with a little public display to stress urgency. Or am I wrong?…

  • John Dann

    For an alternative view, I suggest this article by Scott Ritter:

    “One would also suspect that a “journalist” with as much experience as Evan Gershkovich would know better than to seek to receive classified documents about Russian defense industry inside Russia…unless, of course, he was a spy.”

    If Gershkovich was not spying, (seeking and receiving classified information) then he is incredibly ignorant and naive, to the point of folly. It seems easier to believe that he wanted to be arrested, than that he was unaware of the peril he was placing himself in.

  • AG

    a mild oddity here:

    an article from the WSJ that claims that Russian economy is falling apart, wrongly so.
    Co-written by … Evan Gershkovich.

    Strange to read it in retrospect (date 28/3/23)


    source for the link is:

    “The Effect of Sanctions on Russia: A Skeptical View”
    By James K. Galbraith

    who contradicts WSJ and the general West, and does know a bit more about economy than the average WSJ staff, I assume:


    • SA

      The BBC designation now is that of a ‘Publicly funded media! Go fund me! And their claim is that “The BBC is the world’s leading public service broadcaster”. I would have thought that public funding implies voluntary consent by those who fund rather than tax funded through the governement and also that it is not just the funding but how Governments affect the governing structure of the organisation.

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