'Unfortunate:' U.S. Reacts To Russia's Latest Actions Against RFE/RL, American Journalists

'Unfortunate:' U.S. Reacts To Russia's Latest Actions Against RFE/RL, American Journalists

The United States said on Tuesday Russia's latest actions against independent media, once again, indicate that Vladimir Putin opposes the free dissemination of information, the free press inside Russia, and 'not surprisingly, but unfortunately has not moved off that position,' as the State Department put it, TURAN's Washington correspondent reports.

Russia's Ministry of Justice on Tuesday declared U..S-funded Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty as an "undesirable organisation", putting its staff and contributors at risk of prosecution.

"We have seen Russia continue to crack down on a free press, on transparency.  It is quite clear that they do not want their people to have information about what the Russian regime does abroad, what the Russian regime does to its own people," State Department's spokesperson Matthew Miller told a daily briefing.

The move came just hours after the supreme court of Russia's Tatarstan region rejected an appeal by a jailed RFE/RL editor, U.S.-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, to be transferred from pre-trial detention to house arrest.

RFE/RL in a statement said the court ordered Kurmasheva to be held in jail until at least April 4, rejecting the appeal, which had been lodged on health grounds.

White these two events may seem unrelated, press freedom advocates believe that they are symptoms of an important trend. 

“The world cannot stand idly by and allow journalists to be used as political pawns by the Russian government," Emily Wilkins, president of Washington-based National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the Press Club Journalism Institute, said in a joint statement.

"The United States government can do more to help secure Alsu’s release, and we call on the Biden Administration to take action,” they noted.

The State Department, in its turn, has accused Moscow of arresting American citizens on baseless charges to use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of Russians convicted abroad.

"... The safety and security of American citizens abroad is always our first priority," Miller told TURAN's Washington correspondent. "That is true with respect to this case.  It is true with respect to every American overseas." 

The development comes as another Russian court on Tuesday once again extended the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich by rejecting the latest appeal from his lawyers.  He will now be held behind bars until at least March 30, marking a full year in custody.

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