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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    • Giyane

      Moazzem Begg was investigating USUKIS torture rendition in Syria, an absolutely closed secret of the British state, whereas the Wagner Group isn’t even a secret. He was arrested on his return to Britain.

      Something tells me that US and UK instincts would be to also arrest Gershkovich because they hate all freedom of information about everything. He is probably safer where he is as he will be treated as a publicist for Wagner by the sickos in CIA and British intelligence.

    • Wikikettle

      Blinking had some cheek calling the great Lavrov, demanding the release the journalist. The gossip is, Lavrov in his inimitable way said “sure if you release Julian”.

  • glenn_nl

    It’s incredible how we hand excuses on a plate to despotic countries.

    If we complain about an Official Enemy’s treatment of prisoners, they need only menyion Abu Ghraib. Now, any moral high ground we might pretend to on the subject of journalists, and the free press in general, is completely undercut by our ongoing persecution of Assange.

    Kind of tough to be righteously indignant, when anyone can say, “Hey – you have imprisoned Assange for many years, and he hasn’t even been convicted of anything!”

    • Wikikettle

      glenn_nl what would you call a country that has killed millions, invaded and overthrown dozens, in its very short history been at continual war overseas, hiding behind the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans ? Obviously not despotic !

      • glenn_nl

        Indeed not! That would be a glorious Empire, honourable, noble and decent, loved worldwide, and guided by the hand of God Himself!

  • Goose

    You’ll be accused of ‘whataboutism’ – the favourite made-up word deployed by those defending western double standards.

      • Johnny Conspiranoid

        ““Whataboutary” – the crime of pointing out gross hypocrisy”
        More importantly and since previous behaviour is the best guide to future behaviour, it helps us to weigh up what people are likely to do and whether they are telling the truth.

  • Stevie Boy

    Unfortunately, I think you are cheapening Assange’s case by comparison with this case. Assange was exposing wrongdoing by the US and its allies. Gershkovich appears to be involved in information gathering for the west. With the recent cases of the murders of Tatarsky and Dugina within Russia and Terrorist events like the Crimean Bridge bomb it is quite apparent that the western security services are using ‘Journalists’ to collect intelligence which is then used for terrorism – this is NOT something Assange ever did.
    Russia appears to be treating Gershkovich well and allowing access to representatives – this is NOT something the UK is doing for Assange.
    Gershkovich knew what he was doing and he got caught – he wasn’t doing journalism.

    • Jimmeh

      > and Terrorist events like the Crimean Bridge bomb

      There are several bridges in Crimea, and I imagine several of them have been “bombed”. I suppose you’re referring to the Kerch Strait bridge, which I believe was hit by a Ukrainian guided missile.

      The word “terrorist” (with or without a capital ‘T’) is already pretty elastic, without stretching it to include attacks on enemy logistics in an overt war. The idea that Ukraine had to make use of spies or espionage to figure out where the Kerch Strait bridge is located is absurd; it’s on the maps.

      • Doctor Eleven

        You would be wrong of course. Only one bridge in Crimea has been bombed..this being done last October 22. I do not doubt you already know this and your disingenuousness marks you as a propagandist.

        The Kerch bridge was hit by Ukrainian directed terrorists with a truck bomb that killed 2 civilians. But why check easily verifiable facts when one can spin your unsubstantiated lies?

        • Jimmeh

          It may have been struck by a truck-bomb (yes, I’ve seen that footage); I understood at the time that it was hit by a Ukrainian update of a Soviet-era cruise missile.

          It makes no difference; the bridge was an important element of Russian logistics, in time of war. It was a legitimate target. So if someone under Ukrainian direction blew it up, then they were not terrorists, whatever sloppy definition of “terrorist” you want to choose.

        • Wikikettle

          Mark Golding. Soviet Generals must be rolling in their graves. Who would have thought that Russia’s most strategic base in Sevastopol is now continually under attack by Nato planners and plans are underfoot to have a spring offensive to take Crimea. Imagine if Faslane or the US airbase in Guam were under such attacks! But then again, the US hides behind the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, yet its hundreds of bases overseas are now very vulnerable, as previously cowed countries get off their knees looking at the example of Russia fully upright and dusting off its shoulders with devastating effect on the killing fields in Ukraine revisited.

  • Republicofscotland

    Yip the likes Biden or Blinken or Sunak can’t really complain about Gershkovich, when the West is doing the exact same thing with Assange, and the difference between Assange and Gershkovich is we need not assume that Assange was working for the CIA, we know he wasn’t whilst we don’t know whether or not Gershkovich is.

  • Republicofscotland

    On Assange Australian governments have a good record on obtaining the release of Australians held abroad, so why the lacklustre approach on freeing Assange do the Australians not realise that the world is watching them kowtow to the US as the UK does.

    ” the Australian government has through diplomatic intervention won the release of six Australian citizens from foreign jails since 2007: David Hicks (U.S./Guantanamo), Melinda Taylor (Libya), James Ricketson (Cambodia), Sean Turnell (Myanmar), Kylie Moore-Gilbert (Iran), and Peter Greste (Egypt).”


    • Yuri K

      Unfortunately, Russia has temporarily suspended death sentencing, so Gershkovich’s life is not under threat. For Russia, he’s a valuable asset 😉

      • Jen

        He’s valuable while he keeps his mouth closed but once it’s open and talking, he won’t be so valuable any more.

  • General Cologne

    word on the street is he could be a cadre CIA or NSA, as was caught in fragrante while planting surveillance devices and arranging to pass on funds to Zele terror cells

  • fonso

    Steve Rosenberg is permitted every day to broadcast a stream of the blackest anti-Russian propaganda from the heart of Moscow. So if Gershkovich has been arrested he was quite obviously up to something other than journalism.

  • Republicofscotland

    Just wondering what the US authorities would’ve done if some Russian journalist from RT or RIA or Tass was poking about outside Langley or an off limits US military complex base asking questions, would he/ she be arrested and charged with spying? Or would they have been invited in and offered a cup of coffee and had all their questions answered?

    Just a thought.

  • Crispa

    Regarding kettles calling pots black, the closest parallel would seem to be the case of Spanish – Russian journalist Pablo González, who has been in a Polish prison for over a year waiting trial on what appear to be far more specious accusations of “spying for Russia” than those levelled against Gershkovich. Some muted protest but hardly an outcry from western media. Perhaps he will be swap material.

  • sergey

    a cocktail of half-truths every time Craig is writing on Russia. and what makes this “Evan” a “young jorno”? the presumption he or she or it is only half-ruined? weird

    • Seth Ras

      CM is a russophobe. He literally can’t write on Russia without making up some BS about Russia being repressive and totalitarian

  • DavidH

    Sure, they should both be released. And the US claim of universal jurisdiction is outrageous. But comparing the “crimes”, publishing 100’s of thousands of classified and stolen military and diplomatic files, the vast majority of which were not direct evidence of government wrongdoing, might be considered more serious than snooping around a tank factory.
    They were both incredibly brave, or stupidly foolhardy, depending on your view.

    • pretzelattack

      wrongly classified government files, and i don’t know where you get that the vast majority were not “direct” (how about indirect) evidence of wrongdoing. certainly the Apache murder video is direct evidence, and that kind of thing is why Assange is languishing in jail.

    • Johnny Conspiranoid

      “publishing 100’s of thousands of classified and stolen military and diplomatic files,”
      Wasn’t the Guardian something to do with that?

  • Peter VE

    I wonder what would happen to someone who broke into the Lima tank plant some night, wandered around for several hours, then left with a souvenir fire hose nozzle?
    Nothing, although they might have to dodge the night watchman.
    “someone” I know did it in the mid 70s when it was mothballed.
    I suspect things are a little different today.

  • C avery

    Begs the question what is the newsworthiness or American public interest in a journalist investigating the Wagner group. And why Yekaterinburg?

  • Yuri K

    “I am going to assume Gershkovich was not actually working for the CIA or Ukrainian intelligence.”

    And why would you make such an assumption? The analogy with Assange is false because we do know that Assange was jailed for his journalism. However, we don’t know yet what Gershkovich was arrested for; this may be something unrelated to his work as journalist. And Ekaterinburg is not only “one of Russia’s grimmest, most mafia dominated and least open cities” as you remember from 1990s; it is also home for Russia’s major military manufacturing facilities. And why was Gershkovich interested in visiting also Nizniy Tagil, where major tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod is located? I suggest, let’s not assume that CIA has stopped spying on Russia and wait and see what kind of charges they’ll bring upon him.

    • Urban Fox

      The thing is if you’re working for a major outlet in the West you act as a purveyor of the establishment narrative, or you don’t get employment. So the question of direct CIA links is academic at the lower level.

      This is particularly true of people operating in “hostile countries “. Let’s face it do you ever hear good news from the MSM about Russia? Nope, it’s Mordor and no light can escape it…

  • AG

    Appears as a bit naive.

    To do this kind of reporting (T-90 factory in this city at this point of time)

    Wrong guy, wrong time, wrong place –

    Probably he was just out for sensationalist material he could sell.

    Russian factory workers building the T-90 and complaining about the war would have qualified for great propaganda in the WSJ.

    But propaganda is not espionage.

    So far I don´t know anything he did in secret.

    p.s. did he inform Russian officials that he wanted to report on that infrastructure?
    Or did he just walk over there without informing any authority?!

    I doubt you could report on Boeing or other factories building this kind of war gear just like that.

    You would most likely be detained immediately by private security.

    Imagine a Russian journalist doing that very same thing in the US.

    • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett


      ” So far I don´t know anything he did in secret.”

      Of course you wouldn’t know – it was all done in secret.

      More seriously, the fact of making a secret trip ( i.e. to a region without necessary permission) raises a flag and makes one wonder whether he was spying or not.

    • Jen

      “… Probably he was just out for sensationalist material he could sell …”

      Gershkovich probably fancied himself as the next Tom Clancy or the next Robert Ludlum, writing spy novels for a new Cold War generation with an eye to getting at least one tome adapted into a Hollywood blockbuster screenplay.

      He’ll have plenty of time in prison to think about sketching the plot and the cast of characters enacting it. His fellow prisoners and prison wardens could supply him with interesting and quirky material. Maybe he’ll even meet Alexei Navalny in prison and base his heroic protagonist on that fellow and his background, filled with past flirtations with neo-Nazi beliefs, ideologies and connections, and a history of embezzlement involving a French cosmetics company and a timber company owned and run by a provincial government in northern Russia.

  • Sean_Lamb

    ” No evidence has so far been produced of this and, so far, I have not seen Russia allege it. ”

    These things aren’t carried out on social media and Russia hasn’t described precisely what they object to. So it is all speculation, in this stage.

    In the Pentagon Papers the judges were clear there were somethings not covered by a First Amendment defense – such as publishing the list of shipping when under submarine attacks. So there are certain topics that journalists need to be careful in wartime.

    However, generally if a journalist is just asking questions of a spokesperson, it is up to the spokesperson not to give classified information. Collecting military information not for publication or attempting to corrupt or facilitate an informant would be stepping outside the bounds of journalism.

    In short, it is certainly possible for Gerschkovich to have legitimately been arrested, that doesn’t mean he has been.

  • Pietro

    Russia had arrested Evan Gershkovich, a US reporter for the Wall Street Journal, on charges of espionage.

    “Mr. Lavrov emphasized that Mr. Gershkovich had been caught red-handed attempting to obtain classified information by collecting data constituting State secrets under the guise of his journalistic status.

    Source –> https://t.me/EurasianChoice/25874

  • Jen

    One does have to ask what Evan Gershkovich was doing in Ekaterinburg (of all cities in Russia he could have visited) trying to speak to employees of the NPO Novator missile factory (of all the people in Ekaterinburg he could be interviewing) to find out how they “feel” about Russian actions in Ukraine.

    The context surrounding Gershkovich’s arrest which, as far as I can tell, the WSJ and The Fraudian at least have omitted to report, surely speaks volumes.

    • fonso

      They also omit to mention that western journalists are allowed to broadcast unfiltered anti-Putin/ Russophobic material day in day out from right in front of the Kremlin or in Red Square. We are meant to forget ever having seen a Steve Rosenberg or US network report from Moscow and just suddenly start believing dissenting western journalists are arrested on sight in this totalitarian state.

  • Jack

    While we do not yet know the (real) reason for why this particular journalist was arrested, one can flip this around:
    What would happen if a russian journalist was caught outside a US military compound? Would the same west that now demand this guy’s release, blast the americans if they apprenhended the russian journalist?
    I suspect that the laws in Russia, or the surveillance is much more lax than the americans ones that would nab the russian journalist as soon as he stepped out of the plane on US soil.

    It is like, the western journalists have the right go on snooping on other nations but that right is nowhere found for the evil russian journalists doing the same activity in the western nations.

  • AG

    sry if this is the wrong place but since it´s from yesterday I wanted to link:

    Reuters says “Britain blocks UN webcast of Russian meeting on Ukraine”

    “UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -Britain has blocked the U.N. webcast of an informal Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Wednesday at which Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights – who the International Criminal Court wants to arrest on war crimes charges – is due to speak, diplomats said.”


  • john

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

    Not so fast, the court case will determine that.

    The Russian FSB’s case:
    US citizen Evan Gershkovich, a correspondent for the Moscow bureau of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), was detained in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Region, in the Urals region of Russia, on suspicion of espionage.
    The journalist was collecting top-secret data about an enterprise within the Russian military-industrial complex in the interests of the United States.
    The American was detained while trying to obtain classified data.

  • Doctor Eleven

    Cmon Craig.

    This clown was caught red handed in the act of installing a surveillance device outside of a sensitive metallurgical facility, or so I heard on the interwebs.

    Basically indicative of the brain trust running the alphabet agencies these days. Serious leadership and general intelligence deficits causing this snakes and ladders style tactical buffoonery. Are there no serious thinkers anymore?

  • Andrew H

    US citizens should not be in Russia. They were told to get out long ago. Anyone who remains after the Brittney Griner affair clearly understands they are subject to arbitrary detention. Being a journalist is not an excuse for not being taken as hostage or swap material. At this point I have no sympathy for any westerner who still thinks they are safe in Russia (or China, or Iran, or North Korea). People should make intelligent decisions about where they travel. (and if they don’t, like people who visit volcanoes, there is little anyone can or should do when things go as might reasonably be expected)

    • fonso

      That’s just your prejudice talking. The BBC and US networks have been broadcasting unvarnished anti-Russian propaganda from Moscow every day without inhibition. In fact they travel to any place in Russia they can find an unflattering story. Everyone reading this has seen these reports so the only person you are deceiving is yourself.

      • Andrew H

        And as we have been shown over and over again, these people are quite delusional if they think they are safe from being held hostage or being imprisoned (especially if they hold dual citizenship).

  • Scott Matthews

    Gershkovich is a Zionist Jew working for a NeoCon rag, The Wall Street Journal. He previously worked at that other great NeoCon rag, The New York Times.

    A real journalist would have mentioned that, but not our hero.

  • Odessa Gagarin

    We are mindful of the presumption of innocence. Craig’s dislike for Russia obscures his mind and clouds his judgment. He dismissed out of hand the possibility that the chap may be both journalist AND a spy. ‘The answer is of course, that neither committed espionage’. How does Craig know that? What makes him say that in regards to Evan? Guesswork and dislike of Russia. From what I know/have seen/have read about USSR/Russia it is unlikely that he was detained on bogus charges. The fact the Ekaterinbugh was the pits when Craig visited (say 20 years ago) does not make Craig’s case any stronger.

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