Following is a statement from Eileen O’Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on the denial of consular visits to Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Russian government’s withholding of consular visits for journalist Evan Gershkovich as a form of punishment. Evan is at the mercy of the Russian judicial system, which has chosen to keep him in solitary confinement. Consular visits are the only break in solitary and are important to Evan’s mental health. Denying these visits amounts to torture. The UN Convention on Torture defines solitary confinement of more than 15 days as torture. Evan has been held twice that long. His only relief is during consular visits. They are essential and must be continued on a regular basis. These visits are guaranteed by treaty, and Russia is in violation of law to not provide them. Russia can and should be prosecuted in International Courts.
We also find revolting the idea that Russia is denying consular visits because visas were denied to Russian journalists wishing to accompany the Russian Foreign Minister to the United Nations in New York. Those journalists are not suffering in any way. None of these Russian journalists are in jail or in solitary confinement. They have not falsely been accused of espionage. They are not being punished. Creating an equivalence between their situation and Evan’s is false and immoral.
Punishing Evan because of the visa policy of his government is cruel. He does not set that policy. Russia itself requires credentialing of Western journalists. They recently changed the renewal requirement to three months from 12 months. That is their right. Evan followed all their rules and was fully credentialed to work. Russia still jailed him.
The punishment of Evan, which amounts to torture, is a significant and disturbing overreaction to a simple access issue. Restore consular visits at once. Stop punishing a journalist. The world is watching.”