Thank you Andrea, and congratulations to all of tonight’s honorees. Thank you, Suzanne Nossel for your leadership during these tumultuous times. And thank you, PEN America for your support for The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones during what is truly a difficult chapter – for Evan, for the Journal and for press freedom around the world. And thank you to News Corp for your ongoing support. 

Thirteen months ago, we received a phone call that marked the beginning of a nightmare scenario. 

Our reporter, Evan Gershkovich, was wrongfully arrested in Russia merely for doing his job. He’s been detained for more than a year by the Vladimir Putin regime – an absolute outrage. 

During that time, we have unleashed an unprecedented campaign to seek Evan’s release. It includes heartfelt grassroots support from Evan’s colleagues at WSJ and Dow Jones as well as strong support from virtually every media outlet in the U.S. and the free world. 

This is how you know about Evan. You read about him. You see his face on TV. You see #IStandWith Evan on social media. Maybe you’ve seen “Free Evan” buttons — like this one here — on suit lapels and backpacks. 

The campaign is not merely a news story; it is meant to keep his plight top of mind for the U.S. government and other authorities, while they are juggling an ever-growing pile of geo-political priorities. 

When a cataclysm like this happens, you may think that Jack Ryan will appear and solve it with a few clever moves and a show of force. But it turns out that Jack Ryan is a public servant in the State Department working in a small office where searing photographs of wrongfully detained Americans line the hallways. 

And he’s not alone. There are scores of office Jack Ryans. There is a massive push afoot by lawyers, hostage workers, powerful intermediaries and allies. This work is seen and unseen, a mixture of private diplomacy and official diplomacy and ultimately the possibility for Evan’s release will be created in this sphere. I want to thank and salute these people for their quiet efforts. Some of them are here this evening – General Counsel Jay Conti, Roger Carstens and your teams and many, many others who are not here tonight. 

Evan is held in Lefortovo, a prison for dissidents designed to make inmates feel abandoned. Nevertheless, we’re told Evan remains resilient. He corresponds with friends and family via letters, reads Russian literature and keeps himself active. Evan’s parents and sister, calm and dignified for more than a year, are an inspiration.

Evan’s freedom is our top priority and the day he comes back to his family and to the WSJ will be an overwhelming one. We also know his release matters on a macro level. We have to get Evan out. But our moral obligation goes beyond that. What about Alsu Kurmasheva? What about Antonina Favorskaya and Olga Komleva? What about wrongfully held journalists in China, Turkey and Myanmar? What about Jimmy Lai? 

The grim reality is that there are Evans everywhere. Journalists around the world face increasing resistance and hostility for just trying to do their jobs. 

Let me underscore once more what Andrea already noted. Worldwide, 320 journalists were detained in 2023, and nearly 100 have been killed in the last year alone, including in Gaza and Ukraine, where reporters and photojournalists are informing the world at great personal risk. Even some democracies are curtailing press freedom. 

All the while, we also know the economic models that once underpinned the news business are crumbling. The media industry is under enormous pressure from every angle at a time where reliable information has perhaps never been more important. Our world is an increasingly complex one and we in the news media have a responsibility to help people make sense of this new era. 

So, the moment we’re in calls for great journalism. But journalism is only as effective as the actions taken by its readers. Democracies can die on a clear blue sky. And to keep a democracy functioning, informing oneself is a civic duty. It is a civic duty to support your local news outlet. It is a civic duty to support free press. Free press and free society must be groomed and maintained. 

Similarly, good reporting takes time and effort. It requires perseverance and significant resources. It takes journalists — like Evan — who are willing to go out, gather the facts, and report them as such. 

My colleagues at Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal and I deeply appreciate your support here tonight. We will not rest until Evan is home. Please keep standing with Evan. Please keep him and his family in your hearts. And, most of all, keep up the fight for press freedom. It’s urgent. It’s necessary. Russia may be an ocean and a continent away; but the distance between authoritarianism and a free society is measured by the strength of a free press. 

Thank you.