Friday marks six months since Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Russia on what are widely considered to be fabricated charges of espionage. Gershkovich is accused of allegedly trying to obtain classified information.
A journalist doing their job, that is, investigating things that powerful people want to keep under wraps, makes reporters like Gershkovich easy targets for authoritarian regimes to detain and use as bargaining chips.
It’s important that the U.S. government keep pressuring Vladimir Putin to release Gershkovich, and to keep reminding the world of his wrongful detention.
Today’s Alexandria Times page 1 story, “Rescue in the night,” is a tale of another wrongful detention writ large, in another authoritarian regime: Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua.
Earlier this year, a State Department official was tasked with organizing the exodus of 222 Nicaraguan political prisoners who had been arrested on “crimes” ranging from protesting against the regime to criticizing it on social media to challenging Ortega for Nicaragua’s presidency. The story explains how this official orchestrated their safe exodus to the United States.
One of these former prisoners has settled in Alexandria after suffering mistreatment and malnutrition in the infamous Stasi-like Nicaraguan prison called “El Chipote.”
It’s important for Alexandria residents to understand that there are refugees in our midst who have endured great trauma in their homelands.
And the raids this summer on a Marion, Kansas, newspaper’s office and the publisher’s home were authoritarian acts right here in the United States. The local police chief, who had been investigated by the newspaper, used a flimsy excuse to seize the paper’s computers and the staff’s cell phones.
Wielding the levers of government to silence critics, squelch opposition and maintain power is reprehensible, whether done in Russia, Nicaragua or Kansas.
It’s important for each of us to stand up to abuses of power wherever they occur.
We can do our part by welcoming refugees who have escaped overseas horrors, by contributing to organizations that support investigative journalism – and by petitioning our government to help free Evan Gershkovich.