24-hour read-a-thon highlights wrongful detention of WSJ journalist Evan Gerschkovich

Evan Gerschkovich An undated ID photo of journalist Evan Gershkovich. | Credit: AFP via Getty Images

Beginning at 8 a.m today, July 19, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., journalists began a 24-hour read-a-thon to draw attention to the wrongful detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gerschkovich, who has now been held in Russia on espionage charges for 112 days.

A statement from Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, said participants are reading from Gerschkovich’s large body of work — most of it from the Wall Street Journal but also from Agence France-Presse and the Moscow Times. 

Participating in the read-a-thon are Gerschkovich’s colleagues from the Wall Street Journal as well as Press Club members from other media outlets, family members, and close friends. Each will take a 15-minute slot. 

“We are doing this to call attention to Evan’s case and to give people a symbolic way to show support for Evan as he passes 100 days in jail and awaits trial,” said the National Press Club statement. 

The intention behind the event is also strategic. Organizers want to show that Gerschkovich’s large body of work is a testimony to who he is and what he does — journalism. They also want to underscore just how long a day is. “Evan has been held 112 days. One day is too long. He must be released. We will call on Russia to release him immediately and without conditions,” the statement read. 

The read-a-thon began at the National Press Club’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and will move on later to The Wall Street Journal’s London and Singapore bureaus. It is being streamed live on the clubs website, YouTube channel, and Twitter. Those who want to show support for Gerschovich have been encouraged to share the livestream of the read-a-thon and to use the hashtag #IStandWithEvan.

“Evan is a very talented journalist, and I can’t think of a better way to draw attention to his continued, unjust imprisonment in Russia than reading his work for the world to hear,” O’Reilly said.

Gerschkovich was arrested in March during a reporting trip in Russia and accused of espionage — the first time since the Cold War that an American journalist has been detained in Russia on such charges. The Wall Street Journal has denounced these charges and the U.S. government, as well as news organizations around the world, have called for Gerschkovich’s immediate release. 

The National Press Club has hosted this kind of event before, such as in the case of the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, who was unjustly held in Iran for 544 days. 

Across the globe, journalists are regularly arrested and detained for doing their job. According to the U.K.s Press Gazette, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that nearly 400 journalists have been detained worldwide, while Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it’s more than 500. In 2022, 68 journalists were killed, according to a report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

In a speech on Nov. 11, 2021, Pope Francis addressed journalists, highlighting their critical role in the world and calling the profession a “mission.” The pope thanked them for reporting on the Church’s sex abuse scandals and giving a voice to victims. 

“Thank you all for the work you do,” he said. “Thank you for your search for the truth, because only the truth sets us free.”

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