The Torch is a weekly newsletter from the Committee to Protect Journalists that brings you the latest press freedom and journalist safety news from around the world. Subscribe here.
On Thursday, Russian authorities said they had detained Wall Street Journal reporter and U.S. citizen Evan Gershkovich in the city of Yekaterinburg. Later that day, a Moscow court ordered Gershkovich to be placed under arrest until May 29 on charges of spying for the U.S. government.
The FSB security service accused the journalist of collecting information “constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.” If convicted, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison.
Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said, “By detaining the American journalist Evan Gershkovich, Russia has crossed the Rubicon and sent a clear message to foreign correspondents that they will not be spared from the ongoing purge of the independent media in the country.”
Said called on Russian authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release Gershkovich, drop all charges against him, and let the media work freely and without fear of reprisal.”
Global press freedom updates
- Unidentified attackers open fire on office of Albanian broadcaster Top Channel, kill security guard
- Belarusian journalist Henadz Mazheyka sentenced to three years in prison; Belarus orders three journalists detained
- Russian authorities in Crimea deny medical treatment for jailed journalist Iryna Danylovych
- Burkina Faso indefinitely suspends France 24 over Al-Qaeda interview
- Congolese journalist John Ngongo Lomango arrested over conflict reporting
- Nigerian journalist Agba Jalingo detained on cybercrime charges
- Turkish authorities arrest employee of Yeni Yaşam newspaper in terrorism investigation
- CPJ submits evidence on Jimmy Lai case and Hong Kong media freedom to U.K. parliamentary group
- Chinese blogger Ruan Xiaohuan sentenced to seven years in prison
- In Bangladesh, police assault at least nine journalists covering Supreme Court Bar Association elections; journalist Shamsuzzaman Shams arrested under Digital Security Act; unidentified men attack brother of exiled journalist Zulkarnain Saer Khan
- Chilean outlet Resumen targeted in burglary and failed arson attempt
This week, the United States co-hosted the second Summit for Democracy with the governments of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, and Republic of Zambia in an effort to tackle the most pressing threats faced by democracies today.
The summit comes at a time of historic challenges for press freedom. Journalists worldwide are being persecuted by those who seek to deny basic facts or disinform the public. As the summit began, President Joe Biden issued an executive order limiting the use of spyware if it could pose significant counterintelligence or security risks to the U.S. or be used improperly by foreign agents.
The U.S. was joined by other governments in that significant step to halt the abuse of spyware. CPJ has reported extensively on spyware, published a special report showing how it poses an existential crisis for journalism, and has called for moratoriums on its use.
CPJ took several actions to mark the 2023 Summit:
- CPJ joined civil society organizations and individuals to sign onto the Civil Society Declaration of Democratic Principles, which called on states to take recommended actions associated with each principle, integral to the success of all democracies.
- The Media Freedom Cohort, of which CPJ is a member, released a report detailing commitments made by governments, corporations, news organizations, and civil society groups—including CPJ—to promote media freedom worldwide.
- CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg joined a Summit for Democracy side event discussing the protective measures rooted in international law that can be taken by states in response to the rise in threats to journalists’ safety.
CPJ calls on governments to defend the centrality of press freedom and journalist safety in preserving and advancing democracy. Press freedom is your freedom.
What we are reading
- Hard news: The Struggle to report on Myanmar and Belarus from exile — Liam Scott, New Lines Magazine
- In India, the state challenges independent media —Tarushi Aswani, The Diplomat
- Focus on Africa: Freed journalist recounts Mali kidnapping ordeal — Veronique Edwards, BBC
- Chinese journos across world, especially women, targeted by Beijing-employed troll armies — Abhishek Awasthi, FirstPost
- Forced to flee: How exiled journalists hold the powerful to account — Celeste Katz Marston, Nieman Reports
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