BERLIN—The German government has advised Germans not to travel to Russia in the wake of the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter
In guidance published this past week, Germany’s foreign ministry tightened the travel guidance for German nationals seeking to travel to Russia.
“There is a danger that also German citizens and people with double German-Russian citizenship could be arbitrarily detained,” the advice said.
Last Monday, the foreign affairs ministry summoned members of the German media for a briefing, during which officials warned them of heightened risks of reporting in Russia.
The spokesman of the foreign office, Christopher Burger, said that censorship laws are vaguely worded in Russia, increasing the threat of drastic penalties for journalistic activities.
“We take this very, very seriously and are also in very, very close contact with the editors who have correspondents on site in Russia” as well as the German correspondents still working in Russia, Mr. Burger said.
The U.S. government has already warned Americans to leave Russia due to the risk of arbitrary detention or harassment.
Germany, which has a large community of people who hold dual Russian-German citizenship, has historically had deep business ties with Russia, and German business executive have continued to travel to Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine. Germany also has a sizable press corps in Russia.
Mr. Gershkovich, 31 years old, was detained on March 29 by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, while he was on a reporting trip in the city of Yekaterinburg and has been held on an allegation of espionage that The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government vehemently deny.
Western governments, global news organizations, press-freedom advocates and human-rights groups around the world have joined the Journal and the U.S. administration in demanding the journalist’s immediate release. The U.S. has said Mr. Gershkovich isn’t a spy.
Russia has said that it is acting in accordance with its own laws.
According to a report Friday by Russia’s state news agency TASS, the FSB “charged Gershkovich with espionage in the interests of his country.” Mr. Gershkovich “categorically denied all accusations and stated that he was engaged in journalistic activities in Russia,” the news agency said.
His arrest has highlighted how treacherous Russia has become for Western reporters operating there. Many Western news outlets pulled their reporters from the country soon after Russia invaded Ukraine early last year, although some had since returned.
Many Western media groups were concerned about the passage of a law last year that threatened up to 15 years in prison for anyone publishing what authorities consider to be false information about the invasion.
Last year, a number of Russian news outlets shut down, and hundreds of journalists left the country. Other Russian-language publications went into exile or underground.
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