Press groups angered as Russia extends detention of Radio Free Europe reporter


Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The National Press Club and the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said Thursday they are outraged by Russia's decision to extend the detention of American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva to April 5.

The RFE/RL journalist was arrested Oct. 18 on a trip to Russia to visit her sick elderly mother.

She was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent and for violating Russia's military censorship laws.

Her family wants the U.S. government to officially designate her as "wrongfully detained."

RFE/RL President Stephen Capus said in a statement, "Russian authorities are conducting a deplorable criminal campaign against the wrongfully detained Alsu Kurmasheva. Imprisoned and treated unjustly simply because she is an American journalist, Alsu's prison sentence has been extended again."

National Press Club President Emily Wilkins and national Press Club Journalism Institute President Gil Klein wrote in a Thursday statement, "Russia's false charges against Alsu stand unopposed more than 100 days after she was taken. We expect more from the U.S. We call on the State Department to take action today to support Alsu by formally acknowledging she is wrongfully detained."

Kurmasheva works for RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service.

RFE/RL has been viewed by some scholars as a media outlet for disseminating U.S. interests and government propaganda. The foreign agent issue arose when the U.S. Justice Department in 2017 requested that Russian state media RT register as a foreign agent. In response, Russia's Justice Ministry also requested RFE/RL and Voice of America journalists register as foreign agents.

RFE was created by efforts of the National Committee for a Free Europe, a CIA-front organization formed by Allen Dulles in New York City in 1949. RFE/RL was covertly CIA-funded until 1972.

After 1972, RFE/RL got funding directly from the U.S. Congress, and the Board for International Broadcasting was formed to oversee it. That board acts as an editorial buffer between the government and RFE/RL.

The National Press Club statement said Kurmasheva "is an American and a journalist. She should be supported. She should be freed."

Detained U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich is also in Russian custody, facing an espionage trial March 30. The Wall Street Journal denies the charges against him. The United States has designated him as "wrongfully detained."