This is a statement prepared by ARTICLE 19 and lawyers representing Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
ARTICLE 19 commends the Working Group for their report, particularly the focus on the use of disinformation laws to arbitrarily detain journalists, human rights defenders, and other civil society actors.
We reiterate that the falsity of information in itself is never a legitimate basis for restricting the right to freedom of expression. The use of censorship and other coercive measures to tackle disinformation only contributes to the problem by denying the free flow of information and fostering mistrust.
We urge States to refrain from using anti-disinformation legislation to prosecute individuals, and to immediately release those detained under such laws.
We have also seen a rise in the abuse of national security laws to detain journalists and restrict the right to freedom of expression. A tragic example of this trend is Russia’s ongoing detention of Evan Gershkovich, an American correspondent for The Wall Street Journal who has reported on Russia for nearly six years.
In March, Russia’s security services seized Evan during a reporting trip, and it continues nearly six months later to wrongfully and arbitrarily detain him in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison on a baseless espionage accusation. This is a fabricated charge that Evan and The Wall Street Journal, alongside leading news organisations and non-governmental press freedom groups from across the globe, all know to be untrue.
Evan’s wrongful detention violates his human rights under international law, is an affront to the free press, and is designed to stop journalists from exercising their right of free expression. Each day that Russia continues to wrongfully detain Evan is another day that Russia keeps him from writing the insightful, enlightening and independent journalism that has been the hallmark of his career.
States must help bring Evan home and condemn Russia for attacking and jailing journalists for doing their jobs.