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Journalists in Trouble: Alsu Kurmasheva’s Family Fights for Her in Washington  

Alsu Kurmasheva’s family advocates for her; Vladyslav Yesypenko marks three years in detention; Iran’s judiciary targets RFE/RL journalists; and more. 

Alsu Kurmasheva and her family visiting the Grand Canyon in July 2022.

ICYMI: Imprisoned RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva’s family spoke to CBS Sunday Morning from their home in Prague, Czech Republic. “My mom is definitely my biggest inspiration. I miss her more than I can possibly say,” said Alsu’s eldest daughter Bibi. Watch here.  

RUSSIA: Alsu Kurmasheva’s Family Fights for Her in Washington

In March, RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva’s family visited Washington, D.C. for a  productive week of meetings with the National Security Council, the U.S. Department of State, members of Congress, and civil society groups. Alsu’s husband and daughter appeared on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and talked about how much they miss Alsu. 

Alsu is an American who has been held in a Russian prison on false charges since October 2023. Her husband and two daughters have not spoken to her for five months. 

Alsu’s husband, Pavel Butorin, said he was grateful for the support the family received: “My girls and I came to Washington unsure what to expect but are leaving with confidence that the U.S. government and free speech advocates care about Alsu and will fight for her release.” Butorin called on the U.S. Department of State to designate Alsu as “wrongfully detained” so she can have full access to the resources needed to secure her release. 

ICYMI: The New York Times Editorial Board urged the U.S. government to designate Alsu as “wrongfully detained” on March 22, calling the charges against her “a travesty.” 

TAKE ACTION: We encourage you to join the call to #FreeAlsu on social media. Inspiration and sample language are available in this advocacy toolkit. You can also send Alsu a solidarity letter through the UK-based NGO Rights in Russia.  

ICYMI: On February 28, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin spoke about Alsu’s plight on the Senate floor. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky called on Russia to free the journalist during a UN Security Council meeting on March 13. RFE/RL is deeply grateful for their support. 

UKRAINE: Vladyslav Yesypenko Marks Three Years in Unjust Detention 

March 10 marked three years of imprisonment for RFE/RL Ukrainian Service journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko. Vladyslav was detained by FSB officers in Russia-occupied Crimea in 2021 and tortured to extract a false confession. RFE/RL calls for his immediate release to his wife Kateryna and daughter Stefania, who have not seen him for more than a thousand days.  

RFE/RL President Stephen Capus advocated for Vladyslav’s freedom during a trip to Ukraine last month, meeting with the journalist’s family and discussing his fate with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy

Press freedom advocates, including PEN America and the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, along with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the U.S. Department of State, are among those who have called for Vladyslav’s immediate release. 

TAKE ACTION: Write Vladyslav a letter of solidarity using instructions on RFE/RL’s website.  

IRAN: Hacktivist Group Reveals Clandestine Attack against RFE/RL Journalists 

Documents leaked by an Iranian hacktivist group in February appeared to show the Iranian judiciary’s clandestine actions against journalists of Persian-language media operating outside of Iran, including those affiliated with RFE/RL’s Radio Farda. The files list 44 journalists who were secretly accused of “propaganda against the state” and convicted in absentia. 

ICYMI: RFE/RL partnered with the Vaclav Havel Library in Prague, Czech Republic, to host a discussion on the safety of journalists. Speakers included RFE/RL President and CEO Stephen Capus, Freedom House Program Manager Lida Vackova, and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of News at Czech Television Martin Reznicek. 

My name is Deniz Yuksel, Advocacy Manager here at RFE/RL and the author of Journalists in Trouble. Thank you for reading our newsletter and for standing with persecuted journalists.

If you are interested in collaborating to amplify the stories of our imprisoned journalists, you can reach me by emailing