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Stuck in Russian prison, Australian leaders turn to Evan

An unwitting pawn in Vladimir Putin’s new Cold War against the West, journalist Evan Gershkovich will this week be jailed in Russia for a year on a false espionage charge.

His case is raising concerns about the safety of foreign nationals visiting and working in Russia and the deterioration of press freedom there.

Today a group of prominent Australian leaders in journalism, politics, business and society are coming together to show their support for the Wall Street Journal reporter, who many believe will be seen as a human bargaining chip in his dealings with Vladimir Putin West.

They have written letters of support to Mr. Gershkovich that will be sent to him in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison after being translated into Russian, a requirement for all messages sent to inmates at the Stalin-era facility.

This Letters kick off our Dear Evan campaignin which we encourage readers to write their own letter in support of the 32-year-old reporter, who is being kept in isolation with only one hour of outdoor time per day.

Mr Gershkovich’s plight is drawing support from across the political spectrum, with both Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton adding their voices to the campaign.

“Journalists speak truth to power and should never be imprisoned for doing their jobs,” Albanese wrote in his letter.

“Journalism is at the heart of liberal values ​​- freedom of expression and the public’s right to know. “The world is a dangerous place and the work you do has never been more important.”

Mr. Dutton compared Mr. Gershkovich’s imprisonment to the imprisonment of famous Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who defied authorities to write about political repression in the then-Soviet Union.

“Freedom of thought is the victory of truth over lies and control,” Dutton wrote. “With thought and truth, the mind can overcome the most difficult circumstances.”

In her letter, former prime minister Julia Gillard said she was “angry at this injustice”.

“Now more than ever it is important that the world has access to independent reporting on what is happening in Russia. As the war in Ukraine continues and the world reacts to the murder of Alexei Navalny, it is vital that the free press can do its job and reveal the truth.”

Midnight Oil singer and former MP Peter Garrett told Mr Gershkovich that despite Australia’s distance from Russia, there was a strong awareness of his situation.

“May you be comforted that there is a strong campaign for your release and we sincerely hope that this occurs as quickly as possible,” Mr. Garrett wrote.

Similar comments came from former foreign minister, NSW premier and journalist Bob Carr, who urged Mr Gershkovich to “never give up hope that a sense of justice, or at least simple common sense, will allow you to return to your family or your country.” and profession”.

Some of Australia’s most respected journalists have also written to Mr Gershkovich encouraging him to stay strong.

“Her detention is a stark reminder of the fragility of press freedom and I hope that all governments recognize that a free press is not a threat but a protection,” wrote Ten news anchor Sandra Sully.

The project’s co-host, Hamish Macdonald – himself a foreign correspondent for many years – said he paid tribute to Mr Gershkovich’s “courageous reporting and bravery”.

“Freedom of the press can never be taken for granted, and your predicament reminds us of that,” he wrote.

News Corp Australia’s support of the Free Evan campaign recognizes the fact that this masthead is a global partner of The Wall Street Journal.

“As champions of freedom of expression, journalists take risks every day to advocate for the full dialogue that is critical to a functioning democracy,” said Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp Australasia.

“We will not rest until Evan Gershkovich is reunited with his family and back to work in a newsroom gathering facts and telling stories as a journalist.”

Erin Madeley, executive director of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which represents journalists, said: “False allegations of espionage are being made to prevent truthful and accurate reporting from regimes that want to avoid scrutiny.”

The growing outrage over Mr. Gershkovich’s imprisonment has also moved many prominent business leaders.

Mining and renewable energy magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest AO praised Mr Gershkovich’s work, saying it was the “antidote to the misinformation that despots like Putin continue to spread to justify their atrocities”.

AO colleague Gina Rinehart called on the Biden administration in the US to redouble its efforts to “bring Evan home”, while Visy chairman Anthony Pratt reminded Mr Gershkovich: “You work for a great news organization that will never give up on bringing you home.” ”

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