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Journalists in Trouble: President Biden Calls for Alsu Kurmasheva’s Release

President Biden calls for Alsu Kurmasheva’s release; RFE/RL hosts World Press Freedom Day reception with families of imprisoned journalists; and more.

Kateryna Yesypenko and Aleh Hruzdzilovich at RFE/RL’s World Press Freedom Day reception in Washington D.C. on April 25, 2024.
Kateryna Yesypenko and Aleh Hruzdzilovich at RFE/RL’s World Press Freedom Day reception in Washington D.C. on April 25, 2024. (Photo Credit: Paige Duskie)

 RUSSIA: President Biden Calls for Alsu Kurmasheva’s Release, Promises Executive Action

Speaking at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 27, U.S. President Joe Biden called on Russia to immediately release American RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva. Alsu’s husband Pavel Butorin was in the audience. Watch here.

President Biden also recognized Alsu in a statement marking World Press Freedom Day on May 3, and promised to take “executive action in response to the global crackdown on press freedom, as exemplified by the wrongful detention of journalists around the world.” 

Alsu Kurmasheva was detained in Russia on false charges in October 2023, while on a visit to care for her elderly, ailing mother. 

RFE/RL is grateful for the Biden administration’s support. We look forward to the U.S. State Department formally designating Alsu as wrongfully detained. 

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.  

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY: RFE/RL and Partners Stand in Solidarity with Jailed Journalists

Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, RFE/RL and 10 partners hosted a reception on April 25 highlighting the plight of imprisoned journalists around the world and calling for action. 

Following National Press Club President Emily Wilkins’s keynote speech, the audience heard from: Paul Beckett, advocate for imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich; Pavel Butorin, husband of imprisoned RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva; Aleh Hruzdzilovich, formerly imprisoned RFE/RL Belarus Service journalist; Debra Tice, mother of imprisoned journalist Austin Tice; and Kateryna Yesypenko, wife of imprisoned RFE/RL journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko

RFE/RL thanks U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) for his written remarks in support of press freedom, delivered by his Foreign Policy Advisor Thomas Melia, and RFE/RL Board Member Jeffrey Gedmin and Elise Labott for their participation. 

ICYMI: On May 2, U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced a resolution recognizing global threats against press freedom, including the imprisonment of RFE/RL journalists Alsu Kurmasheva and Vladyslav Yesypenko. On April 25, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Russia’s undemocratic presidential elections, which called for Alsu’s immediate and unconditional release. A joint statement from U.S. Ambassador to the EU Mark Gitenstein and Vice-President of the European Commission Věra Jourová on World Press Freedom Day also called for Alsu’s release. 

While in Washington, Pavel Butorin, Aleh Hruzdzilovich, and Kateryna Yesypenko met with U.S. government officials, Congressional staffers, and civil society representatives to advocate for imprisoned RFE/RL journalists, with the support of PEN America and The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.  

Aleh raised the alarm about the continued detention of his colleagues Andrey Kuznechyk and Ihar Losik in Belarus. Pavel spoke at a House Foreign Affairs Committee roundtable discussion on “Americans Detained Abroad.” Kateryna was joined by her 9-year-old daughter Stefania who has not seen her father in more than three years. 

ICYMI: On World Press Freedom Day, RFE/RL President and CEO Stephen Capus spoke about imprisoned RFE/RL journalists at a National Press Club news briefing and a Washington Post Live event. RFE/RL Vice President and Editor-in-Chief Nicola Careem spoke to GLOBSEC about urgent threats to independent media.  

Pavel Butorin speaking at a House Foreign Affairs Committee roundtable on “Americans Detained Abroad,” on April 30, 2024. (Photo credit: House Foreign Affairs Committee)

KAZAKHSTAN: RFE/RL Reaches Resolution on Accreditation Issues, Thanks Advocacy Partners

RFE/RL was pleased to report on April 23 that its Kazakh Service has reached an agreement with Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the issue of accreditation for RFE/RL correspondents in the country. We are grateful to our advocacy partners whose support led to this resolution. 

“We welcome the agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said RFE/RL President and CEO Stephen Capus. “Throughout this process, all we have wanted was for our journalists to be able to continue their vital work in Kazakhstan safely, without compromise. The MFA has already started issuing new accreditations and will now give prompt consideration to our applicants. We remain committed to serving our audiences with independent, trusted reporting and I am confident that this agreement will enable us to do just that.”  

RFE/RL continues to watch with concern the advancement of media law amendments restricting the work of journalists in Kazakhstan.  

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