Ivan Gershkovich spent a year behind bars. The Wall Street Journal's top editor hopes it will be his last

Dmitry Serebryakov/AP/FILE

Emma Tucker, editor-in-chief of Wall Street Journal reporter Ivan Gershkovich, hopes to be freed at least next year.

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New York

Emma Tucker is hopeful that Ivan Gershkovich will be released next year.

A Wall Street Journal boss who spoke with me by phone this week said he believes “enough pieces are in place” and “enough goodwill to make it happen.” Tucker acknowledged, however, that the United States is dealing with an unpredictable regime in Russia, making it difficult to give a precise timeline for when Gershkovich will be released.

“But my expectation and real hope is this time next year, he won't be incarcerated in Russia,” Tucker said.

Tucker's comments come as Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Gershkovich's arrest by the Vladimir Putin-led country. The accredited Journal reporter was arrested last March while reporting from the Russian city of Yekaterinburg and imprisoned in Moscow's notorious Leportovo prison. Strongly condemned by free press advocates around the world, his prison term has been repeatedly extended while he awaits trial.

While Gershkovich sits in a Russian room, his colleagues at The Journal have done everything they can to keep his story alive in the press. This week, the newspaper marked the one-year anniversary, raising awareness by hosting a read-a-thon, “Swim for Even” events and several global runs. On Friday, it led to a social media firestorm, where people were encouraged to raise awareness of his case by posting online with the hashtag “#ISTandWithEvan”.

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The Wall Street Journal published a large report in its Friday print edition of the paper, deliberately blanking a large section of its front page to represent the magazine's absence from Gershkovich.

“A year in a Russian prison. A year of stolen stories, stolen joys, stolen memories. Crime: Journalism,” the paper says above the blank.

Along with that, The Journal highlighted the news about Gershkovich and the destructive effects of totalitarian regimes.

From the Wall Street Journal

Front page marking the one year anniversary of Ivan Gershkovich's detention in Russia.

“What people can do is keep Evan in mind because it puts pressure on the governments involved, it's an absolutely outrageous situation that needs to be addressed,” Tucker told me.

“But the other thing I would say is that I think it's really important for all of us to remind people how important a free press is,” Tucker added. “I think that's something that is sometimes taken for granted.”

Tucker said Gershkovich's detention did not change The Journal's editorial stance on Russia, given the country's long record of tough reporting on the repressive government. But he said it certainly affected him and the magazine in other ways.

“It's raised the need to talk not just about Evan and his particular plight, but a broader attack on the ability of journalists to do their jobs,” Tucker said. “It made us think really hard, not that we hadn't before, but you think about all your journalists in dangerous situations. Something like this focuses the mind.”

While realistic free press advocates have condemned Putin for his crackdown on the press, some prominent right-wing media figures, such as Tucker Carlson, have praised the authoritarian regime in recent months. Carlson, in particular, traveled to Russia earlier this year and sat down for an interview with Putin. When he pressed the Russian dictator on Gershkovich's case, he made room for the possibility that The Journal violated the reporter's law (Carlson's comments did not play well in The Journal newsroom, and reporting is not a crime). Carlson recorded a series of propaganda videos in Moscow, glorifying the country.

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When asked about the disturbing tendency of right-wing media figures to praise Russia as something utopian, Tucker acknowledged its “extraordinary” nature and emphasized the need for it while Gershkovich sits in the Russian Chamber for the crime of reporting from the country. Accurate reporting from the region.

“What's going on in my head is our job at The Journal to double down on good reporting on what's really going on there,” Tucker told me, describing reporting from Putin's Russia as “very bloody these days” but as important as ever.

“That's where we need to focus our energy,” Tucker added. “We can't worry about what other people are doing.”

As Gershkovich waits for the day he gets out of jail and is surrounded by family and friends, Tucker told me he's “resilient” and doing his best to stay positive. But Tucker noted that he doesn't think “anyone is going to be in a very good mood after a year in a Moscow prison designed to hold political prisoners.”

“I think a lot of what you see, his parents agree with this, he's protecting them,” Tucker said. “He knows this is a terrible test for them.”

“When he's a good lead, it makes his parents feel good,” Tucker added. “He knows his mom and dad are dumping pictures of him … I think he knows that. And because he's the kind of person he is, he tries to protect them.

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