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Journalists swim in solidarity one year since US reporter imprisoned in Russia

Journalists are swimming in solidarity at 10 Brighton beaches around the world to mark one year since an American reporter was imprisoned in Russia.

Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich was detained in March last year while on a reporting trip, accused of espionage which he, the media outlet and US government strongly deny.

The global beach swims on Saturday are in tribute to Mr Gershkovich’s love of Brighton beach in the UK and New York as a way of highlighting the injustice, Wall Street Journal reporter Alistair MacDonald said.

Mr Gershkovich moved to Russia to report on the country in 2017, first working for the Moscow Times and Agence France-Presse before joining the Wall Street Journal.

The 32-year-old moved to London after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 while still returning for reporting trips.

Mr MacDonald told PA news agency: “Evan is among the nicest, most positive people you could hope to meet and the fact that he has been in a Russian jail for a year, for merely doing his job, is appalling.

“So, keeping attention on his incarceration, and the wider issue of journalists being jailed around the world, is important.

“Evan used to visit Brighton beach in New York when he was younger, and when he came to England he became a big fan of the original, here on the south coast.

“We thought that a global Brighton beach swim was one way to highlight the injustice while letting him know that he has not been forgotten.”

Dozens of journalists and swimmers are expected to take part in the Brighton beach swim in East Sussex while more than 100 supporters worldwide will swim in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Jamaica, the US and Canada.

Journalists from the Otago Daily Times dipped in the sea first at Brighton beach on New Zealand’s South Island on Saturday.

“It’s essential to show solidarity with a journalist in distress because it is a profession that requires a lot of courage,” said Mary Williams, an Otago Daily Times journalist.

Evan Gershkovich Brighton beach swim
Journalists at Brighton Beach in Dunedin, New Zealand (Linda Robertson/Otago Daily Times/PA)

Other reporters taking part work for media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg, The New York Times, the West Australian, the Globe & Mail, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Sussex World.

Members of local swimming clubs are also joining in solidarity.

Wall Street Journal editors have said while the anniversary is frustrating, the paper will ramp up their efforts to free Mr Gershkovich.

Wall Street Journal assistant editor Paul Beckett said: “All that we’ve done hasn’t yet paid the one dividend we need it to.

“We really need to re-up our efforts and go at it with an even greater sense of urgency to make sure that (we) can end this as soon as we possibly can.”