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Biden Speaks Out for Freedom of Imprisoned Journalists, Including RFE/RL’s Kurmasheva

President Biden (Credits: The Hill)

U.S. President Joe Biden has issued a strong call for the immediate release of all imprisoned journalists, including RFE/RL’s Alsu Kurmasheva and Evan Gershkovich of The Wall Street Journal, who are being held in Russia on charges that are widely regarded as politically motivated. In a statement marking World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Biden emphasized that “journalism should not be a crime anywhere on Earth.”

Biden specifically highlighted the cases of Kurmasheva and Gershkovich, who have been detained in Russia for their work as journalists. Kurmasheva, a dual U.S. and Russian citizen, has been held in custody since October 18 on charges of violating the so-called “foreign agent” law and spreading falsehoods about the Russian military.

If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison. Gershkovich, meanwhile, has been detained since March last year on spying charges that both he and The Wall Street Journal vehemently deny.

President Biden (Credits: USA Today)

Biden’s statement comes in the middle of growing concerns about the Kremlin’s crackdown on press freedom and its use of detention as a means of silencing journalists.

Moscow has been accused of detaining Americans to use as bargaining chips in exchange for Russians jailed in the United States. The U.S. government and RFE/RL have rejected the charges against Kurmasheva as a reprisal for her work as a journalist.

In his statement, Biden also mentioned Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist who has been kidnapped and held in Syria since 2012. The U.S. administration plans to announce concrete steps in response to the wrongful detention of journalists worldwide, which Biden described as a “grave threat” to America’s national security.

President Joe Biden of USA (Credits: KCUR)

“I will authorize measures, including sanctions and visa bans, against those who take abusive actions to silence the press,” Biden said. “Today and every day, we recognize their courage, support their right to do their jobs, and stand with them for press freedom.”

Biden’s statement has been welcomed by press freedom advocates and journalists worldwide, who see it as a strong affirmation of the importance of a free press in holding those in power accountable.

The detention of journalists like Kurmasheva and Gershkovich is a stark reminder of the risks that journalists face in pursuing their work, and the need for governments to protect and respect press freedom.

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