‘This isn’t a trial’: Wall Street Journal rips Russia’s secretive Evan Gershkovich prosecution | CNN Business (2024)

‘This isn’t a trial’: Wall Street Journal rips Russia’s secretive Evan Gershkovich prosecution | CNN Business (1)

US journalist Evan Gershkovich, accused of espionage, looks out from inside a glass defendants' cage prior to a hearing in Yekaterinburg's Sverdlovsk Regional Court on June 26, 2024.

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Early Wednesday morning, at 2am ET, imprisonedWall Street JournalreporterEvan Gershkovich’strial commenced before a Russian court on bogus espionage charges.

Covering the judicial charade will present an unprecedented challenge for The Journal and other news outlets, given that the trial will take place in secret, behind closed doors. Some images of Gershkovich are expected to be distributed, but the flow of information will be tightly controlled by theVladimir Putin-led government, which will certainly work to splice together a narrative that supports its propaganda goals.

Regardless of what information is made available by the court, there is one aspect of coverage that The Journal will be unmistakably clear about: Gershkovich is innocent, and the court proceedings amount to nothing but political theater.

“To even call it a trial … is unfair to Evan and a continuation of this travesty of justice that already has gone on for far too long,”Emma Tucker, The Journal editor in chief,bluntly stated Tuesdayin a letter to readers.

Elena Cherney, who oversees the broadsheet’s standards and ethics teams, stressed to me that it is imperative for The Journal —and other news organizations— to make it abundantly clear that Gershkovich has been unjustly detained and that the proceedings are a “violation of human rights.”

“This isn’t a trial as we normally think of trials,” Cherney said by phone Tuesday. “This is a process that is completely lacking in due process. It is obviously a bogus allegation. And we need to make it clear in our coverage that we are not leaning into the process… because we know these are empty charges and these are political charges.”

Indeed, The Journal has been clear-eyed about the matter since Gershkovich was detained by Russian authorities 15 months ago while gathering reporting in the city of Yekaterinburg. When Gershkovich was indicted earlier this month, the outlet ran astrong headlinethat refused to entertain the notion that Gershkovich was working as a clandestine spy for the U.S. government. “WSJ Reporter Evan Gershkovich, Falsely Accused of Espionage, Is Indicted in Russia,” the headline read.

Other news outlets, however, have at times been less direct about the matter. Cherney, who told me that she has been in touch with various newsrooms ahead of the trial to offer The Journal’s point of view, said she believes news organizations should be clear with audiences about the circ*mstances. Buying into the judicial show put on by Russia, after all, is what Russia desires — and it would deliver the Kremlin a propaganda victory.

“This coverage should not read or sound as if this is a legitimate process,” Cherney said, imploring other newsrooms not to legitimize the proceedings or get trapped in bothsidesism while covering the story.

And while the court hearings will be held behind closed doors, Cherney said she believes that news organizations should lean into that aspect of the case when covering it, calling it a “critical piece of the story.”

“It is a secret trial, if you can call it a trial, and that is symptomatic of a complete lack of due process,” Cherney said. “This is not how people are charged with crimes in the United States or other Western countries. And we need to take pains to explain everything we know about the lack of legal protection that Evan has — the lack of information that we have about the process.”

No verdict is expected to be rendered on Wednesday. And it’s unclear precisely how long it will take for a final decision to be made. It could take weeks or even months for a verdict to be handed down by the Russian court. But Cherney and her colleagues at The Journal are hoping that the U.S. government will succeed in freeing Gershkovich. In the meantime, she said, they’re all living through a nightmare.

“It is the most difficult, terrible situation that we have ever dealt with and ever hope to deal with,” Cherney said, “and we just hope to get him out.”

‘This isn’t a trial’: Wall Street Journal rips Russia’s secretive Evan Gershkovich prosecution | CNN Business (2024)
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