As one of 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Malta will participate in discussions in which Russia is expected to be confronted over its detainment of American journalist Evan Gershkovich on ‘espionage’ charges.
Gershkovich entered Russia on assignment with the Wall Street Journal and was arrested on 29 March in Yekaterinburg, 1,300 kilometres east of Moscow.
The FSB, the Russian federal security service, detained the journalist and withheld access to his lawyers or any US officials.
International press organisations have railed against his detention.
The US is reportedly urging Malta and two other European nations to confront Russia about the detainment at the UN Security Council. While Russia has assumed the rotating presidency of the council this month, Malta has been a non-permanent member of the council since the beginning of the year.
Foreign Minister Ian Borg in a statement in February pledged that Malta, throughout its non-permanent membership, will be following the principles of security, sustainability and solidarity.
Along with the other nine non-permanent and five permanent members of the council, Malta is expected to discuss and resolve issues which might cause “international friction” and “to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of a settlement,” according to the council’s website.
While two undisclosed European nations are expected to bring up the issue at the council, spokespersons for the US Mission to the UN have expressed doubts on the effectiveness of such talks, given that as a permanent member of the council, Russia holds a veto on any vote taken.
In the meantime, international press freedom associations have denounced and opposed Gershkovich’s detainment.
The International Press Institute said that they are “appalled at reports confirming that a court in Moscow has placed the American journalist under arrest” and demanded his immediate release.
It noted that if found guilty by the Russian authorities, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years imprisonment for a crime the Wall Street Journal has vehemently denied he did.
IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said that “arresting a foreign journalist on espionage charges is a serious escalation of Russia’s attacks on journalism.” He called it an “effort to silence coverage of Putin’s war on Ukraine, which has already led to a serious crackdown on Russian journalists.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has similarly decried the detainment, saying that Gershkovich is “clearly a Russian state hostage,” evidenced by the fact that Russia had “yet to produce any evidence more than 24 hours after a court ordered his detention”.
According to RSF, “many experts think the Russian authorities see Gershkovich as a potential bargaining chip.”
Gershkovich was arrested at the site of an ex-Soviet, now Russian, tank manufacturing plant in Western Siberia which has been active since the second world war, according to independent news outlet Mediazona.
While the FSB has said that Gershkovich was “caught red-handed” reporting on “state secrets”, the RSF maintains that this does not necessarily constitute an act of espionage and that his “detention was ordered in defiance of the rights of the defence” which “proves the bad faith of the Russian authorities”.
DO IT Malta
Maybe an exchange with Assange?
Or exonerate Edward Snowden for doing the right thing exposing US government crimes. Ironically Snowden was granted asylum in Russia and is now a Russian citizen.
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.
What about justice for our own Daphne?