Evan Gershkovich '14 Honored with First Amendment Award; Talk of Prisoner Exchange

By Tom Porter
President Vladimir Putin has mentioned the possibility of a prisoner exchange involving Evan Gershkovich ’14, the Wall Steet Journal reporter jailed in Russia nearly a year ago on unsubstantiated espionage charges.
WSJ newsroom w Evan G image

The Radio Television Digital News Assocation, more commonly known as RTDNA, is honoring Gershkovich with a 2024 First Amendment Award.

"The RTDNA Foundation selected Gershkovich because he sits in a Russian jail cell for practicing journalism," reads the award announcement.

"His wrongful arrest is a reminder that press freedoms are not universally recognized and why they must be protected here in the United States."

Image: The Dow Jones newsroom shows its support. For details on how to join the campaign to call for Gershkovich's immediate release, check out the "Free Evan Gershkovich" website.

Putin made the remarks in a recent interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. However, the Russian leader would not commit to a timeframe, while also stating his belief that Gershkovich had been committing espionage when he was arrested last year, reported The Wall Street Journal. These charges have been vehemently denied by both the White House and the WSJ.

During the two-hour interview, Putin declined a request to free Gershkovich, who is still awaiting a trial date, as a goodwill gesture, saying it was up to the US to facilitate his release. Putin said a prisoner swap is currently being discussed between Russia and America. “But we have to come to an agreement,” he added.

Putin did not say by name whom Moscow would like to see released in exchange for Gershkovich. “But,” said the WSJ, “he made clear reference to Russian operative Vadim Krasikov, now serving a life sentence in Germany for gunning down a Chechen émigré in a Berlin park in 2019.”

“We’re encouraged to see Russia’s desire for a deal that brings Evan home, and we hope this will lead to his rapid release and return to his family and our newsroom,” said the WSJ in a statement.

“Evan is a journalist, and journalism is not a crime. Any portrayal to the contrary is total fiction,” the newspaper added. “Evan was unjustly arrested and has been wrongfully detained by Russia for nearly a year for doing his job, and we continue to demand his immediate release.”

Also detained in Russia is fellow American Paul Whelan, a fifty-three-year old former marine and corporate security executive who has been behind bars for more than five years on espionage charges. Earlier this week, Whelan spoke by telephone to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, reported Politico and other media.

Update: On February 20, 2024, a Russian court's rejection of the latest appeal by Gershkovich's lawyers means he is to remain imprisoned until at least March 30, which would mark more than a year since he was taken into custody on an allegation of espionage that The Wall Street Journal and the US government vehemently deny.

Read more media coverage of Evan Gershkovich.