CANNES — The Wall Street Journal’s publisher has called on the advertising and media industry to shine a “spotlight” and join the fight for press freedom, as his reporter faces conviction and imprisonment in Russia.

Evan Gershkovich has already been imprisoned in Russia for over 15 months, facing what many say are false accusations and a sham trial.

With a trial set to take place in June in secret, Journal publisher and Dow Jones CEO Almar Latour admits that a conviction seems likely.

Shine the light

Speaking with Beet.TV’s editorial director Lisa Granatstein at Cannes Lions, Latour argued that the advertising industry has a vested interest in the viability of a free press.

“I think the advertising industry, if it cares about the viability of news, which I know it does, could put a spotlight on Evan … and on the broader situation of an assault on free press,” he says.

“Without free press, there’s really no free society and we’re all deeply invested in that,” he says. “And so the more people are aware of the direct consequences or indirect consequences for their personal lives and their personal freedoms, I think the better it will be for everyone.”

Risks faced by reporters

As Gershkovich faces a deeply uncertain future, his case stands as a stark reminder of the risks journalists face in bringing truth to light and the vital importance of defending their right to do so.

Gershkovich, an experienced journalist who has reported extensively from Russia, was arrested by Vladimir Putin’s regime on claims he was spying for the CIA, in a move that has sparked an unprecedented campaign by the Journal and supporters around the world to secure his release.

As he languishes in a Moscow prison designed to instill loneliness in dissidents, the resilient reporter passes his 23 hours a day in his cell reading books about the country he has devoted his career to explaining.

The Journal itself reports Russia claims it has proposed a prisoner swap.

Advertisers need a free press

“We’re doing what we can through diplomacy and that is seen out there, but also unseen, quiet diplomacy that’s happening all over the world,” Latour says. “We’re working with governments – with the US government, but also with others.”

He says advertisers depend on a free press.

“News and advertising are of course interlinked. Historically, news is reliant on advertising for its part of its business model,” he says. “Advertising, I suppose, (is) reliant in part on the audience that news brings.”