In a recent development that has raised international concerns, Alsu Kurmasheva, a Russian-American journalist affiliated with Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), has been apprehended in Russia and is facing charges related to her failure to register as a foreign agent. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) disclosed that Kurmasheva is currently in custody at a temporary detention center and is expected to be transferred to pre-trial detention in the near future, as stated by a representative of the Russian human-rights news website OVD-Info.
Kurmasheva, who holds a prominent editorial role within the US-funded news outlet, typically resides in Prague. She entered Russia on the 20th of May to attend to a family emergency, according to CPJ. Subsequently, on the 2nd of June, as she was preparing to leave from Kazan airport, Russian authorities temporarily detained her, confiscating both her US and Russian passports and imposing a fine for her failure to register her American passport with Russian authorities.
The detainee, known for her extensive coverage of the challenges faced by ethnic minorities in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, has especially focused on efforts to preserve the Tatar language amidst increased pressures on the Tatar community by Russian authorities. The recent charge of failing to register as a foreign agent carries the possibility of a five-year jail sentence if she is found guilty.
The situation has elicited deep concern from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which has called for Kurmasheva’s immediate release and the dismissal of all charges against her. Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, stressed that journalism is not a crime and expressed worry that this incident highlights Russia’s apparent determination to suppress independent reporting.
Moreover, CPJ cited an anonymous colleague of Kurmasheva, who suggested that her detention is solely a consequence of her association with Radio Liberty, further underscoring the risks faced by independent journalists in Russia.
Alsu Kurmasheva’s arrest comes on the heels of the detention of Evan Gershkovich, a US journalist and Wall Street Journal correspondent, who has been held in Russia since March on accusations of espionage. Gershkovich’s detention marks the first instance of a Western reporter being jailed on spying charges in Russia since the Soviet era. Both his employer and the US government have unequivocally refuted the allegations, yet Russia has not publicly presented evidence to substantiate these claims.
As global attention remains focused on these incidents, the fate of Alsu Kurmasheva and Evan Gershkovich continues to be a matter of great concern, underscoring the critical importance of preserving journalistic freedom and safety on a global scale.