U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich is escorted out of the Lefortovsky Court building in Moscow on January 26, 2024. CPJ has again called on Russia to release Gershkovich following a court decision to extend his pretrial detention until March 30, 2024. (AFP/Alexander Nemenov)

CPJ condemns Russia’s detention extension for US journalist Evan Gershkovich

New York, January 26, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists again calls on Russia to release U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich following a court decision on Friday to extend his pretrial detention until March 30, 2024.

“This umpteenth extension of Evan Gershkovich’s detention will bring to one year the time he will have spent behind bars simply for doing his job as a journalist,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Russian authorities must immediately release Gershkovich and Alsu Kurmasheva, another U.S. journalist the Kremlin has also held as a hostage of its repressive policies against critical voices, and stop prosecuting the press for their work.”

On Friday, January 26, a Moscow court held a closed-door hearing and granted the Russian Federal Security Service’s request to extend Gershkovich‘s detention until March 30, according to media reports. The ruling, which means that the journalist will spend at least a year behind bars, marks the fourth time that Russian authorities have extended Gershkovich’s pretrial detention since his arrest on March 29, 2023, those reports said.

Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow-based reporter, was arrested on espionage charges while on a reporting trip in the central city of Yekaterinburg. He 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.

The Wall Street Journal has strongly denied the espionage allegations.

“It is chilling and outrageous that Evan Gershkovich has now spent 10 months of his life in prison, simply for doing his job,” The Wall Street Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones, said in a Friday statement. “While these are clearly sham proceedings about patently false charges, we intend to appeal today’s ruling, as we have in the past. Journalism is not a crime, and we continue to demand Evan’s immediate release.”

Friday’s ruling was attended by officials from the U.S. embassy in Moscow, which called the grounds for Gershkovich’s detention “baseless.” On January 18, Gershkovich met with Lynne Tracy, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, in the seventh such visit since his detention.

On April 10, 2023, the U.S. government designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained” by Russia, a status that unlocked a broad U.S. government effort to free him, and has called for his immediate release.

Gershkovich has now spent more than 300 days in detention, while another U.S. journalist, Alsu Kurmasheva, has been held for more than 100 days.

Russian authorities detained Kurmasheva, a U.S.-Russian journalist with the Tatar-Bashkir service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), on October 18 on charges of failing to register herself as a foreign agent, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years. A new charge of spreading “fake” information about the Russian army was later brought against her, which could carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Russia held at least 22 journalists, including Gershkovich and Kurmasheva, in prison on December 1, 2023, when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census.