(LibertySociety.com) – The Russian government has detained and charged an American journalist who works for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Alsu Kurmasheva is a citizen of Russia and the United States. She resides in the Czech Republic but traveled to Russia for a family emergency in May. On June 2, both of her passports were confiscated while she was awaiting a return flight home at a Kazan airport. She has been unable to leave Russia since then. On October 18, she was arrested for the second time and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent. She could be sentenced to up to five years in a Russian prison if found guilty.
Kurmasheva, who has been working for RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir service, is originally from a territory in Russia that speaks the Tatar language. She has been accused of “conducting a targeted collection of military information about Russian activities.” Russian authorities claimed that she was using the internet to send the information to “foreign sources.” News organizations that operate within Russia are required to register as foreign agents if they receive funding from foreign people or entities. A mere accusation can land a journalist in jail, especially if they are critical of the Kremlin.
United States Department of State spokesman Matt Miller accused the Russian government of harassment when asked about Kurmsheva’s arrest on October 19. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov brushed off the State Department’s claim, denying that the government was doing anything other than enforcing the law. Kurmasheva is the second journalist from the United States to be detained and charged in Russia since the war began in Ukraine. Evan Gershkovich, who is a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, was arrested back in March and charged with espionage. He could spend 20 years in a Russian prison if found guilty in court. The United States government has also spoken out against Gershkovich’s detention, claiming that he has been wrongfully accused. Gershkovich has tried and failed to appeal the charges against him but is still waiting for his day in court.
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