On World Press Freedom Day, a focus on student journalists and a jailed WSJ reporter

During the event this week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations focused on Evan Gershkovich's case.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich
Posted at 5:00 PM, May 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 17:00:11-04

In the midst of the campus clashes between protesters and police, journalists are the eyes and ears of what's happening on the ground on behalf of all citizens.

"It's really important that we have access to those protests so that we know what the protesters are saying, we know what those who object to the protests are saying and feeling," said Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive officer of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit that advocates for press freedoms.

She said that in some cases, journalists in the U.S. have run into challenges in covering the college protests.

"We've seen reporters being prevented from reporting on the campus protests that are currently underway in U.S. universities," Ginsberg said. "This is a country that prides itself on freedom of the press, on freedom of assembly."

It's not just working journalists who are facing challenges — student journalists on campuses are facing those, too.

"There was a rubber bullet that was fired at students, students of mine, even student journalists displaying press badges," said Mike Ananny, associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of Southern California.

Ginsberg said student journalists find themselves in a unique situation when it comes to covering the protests.

"Often they're the only people who can have access because they're entitled to be on campus as students," she said, "and they are bringing us information that the accredited press hasn't been able to."

However, accreditation doesn't necessarily equal protection — as seen in some countries overseas, like Russia, where Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been imprisoned for more than a year now.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom

Russia

Russia extends arrest of US reporter Evan Gershkovich

AP via Scripps News
6:28 AM, Mar 26, 2024

During a World Press Freedom Day event this week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations focused on Gershkovich's case, and joined others at the U.N. in calling for more protections for journalists around the world.

At the recent White House Correspondents Dinner, President Joe Biden addressed the detention of Gershkovich.

"Journalism is clearly not a crime. Not here, not there, not anywhere in the world," President Biden said, "and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin should release Evan immediately."

Russian authorities accuse Gershkovich of espionage. It is a charge that he, The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government deny. The U.S. State Department considers him to be "wrongfully detained."

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in 2023, 320 journalists were jailed around the world just for doing their job.

"That kind of news and information is critical to the functioning of democracy," Ginsberg said. "We've got a very big election coming up here in the United States, and so I want people to think very carefully about the crucial role that the press plays in ensuring that that democracy is upheld."

Meanwhile, at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where the Pulitzer Prize is administered, the Pulitzer Prize board this week released a statement recognizing "the tireless efforts of student journalists across our nation's college campuses, who are covering protests and unrest in the face of great personal and academic risk.