‘Journalism is not a crime:’ Biden calls for release of jailed journalists

Washington, Apr 29 (EFE).- United States President Joe Biden Saturday called for the release of reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia and other detainees during an annual Washington dinner to mark press freedom.

“Journalism is not a crime,” Biden said at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Biden began his speech with words of encouragement for the families of journalists Evan Gershkovich, in Russian custody since late March on espionage charges, and Austin Tice, who disappeared while reporting in Syria in August 2012.

“Evan and Austin should be released immediately along with every other American held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad.”

The president met with the families of the detained journalists who attended the gala as Journal guests.

First, he met the relatives of Gershkovich, a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, who faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted of espionage.

The president paid tributes to the reporters and his work, saying he “went to report in Russia to shed light on the darkness.”

“Everyone in this hall stands with you. We are working every day to secure his release, looking at opportunities and tools to bring him home.”

He said the Americans keep the faith for Austin Tice, whose mother Debra was present.

The freelance American journalist disappeared in Syria more than a decade ago.

As Biden paid tributes to the missing scribe, Debra rose to loud applause honoring her son.

Austin Tice is a former Marine who traveled to Syria in 2012 to cover the war and disappeared in August of that year, just as he was to leave the country via the border with Lebanon.

Biden asked the families of the journalists and those who have loved ones detained abroad not to lose hope.

Biden referred to Brittney Griner, the basketball star sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court for drug possession and smuggling.

She walked free in December 2022 after a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, known as the “merchant of death.”

Griner, who was among the audience in the gathering, rose to overwhelming applause.

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is a tradition dating back to 1924 in which presidents recognize the work of journalists in their speeches.

The speeches are often humorous.

On Saturday, Biden began with a more somber tone.

However, as the speech progressed, he began cracking jokes about the Republican opposition in Congress, ex-president Donald Trump (2017-2021), and even his age.

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