The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner – known for its fun albeit ferocious jabs at Washington – took a more solemn tone this year as President Joe Biden acknowledged the several American journalists under siege in authoritarian countries around the world.
“We are here to send a message to the country and, quite frankly, to the world: The free press is a pillar, maybe the pillar, of a free society, not the enemy,” Biden said in his speech.
The president and first lady Jill Biden, upon arriving at the Washington Hilton on Saturday, met privately with the parents of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been imprisoned in Russia since March. He was charged with spying, despite strong denials from his employer and the U.S. government. Some guests wore buttons with “Free Evan” printed on them.
Also among the 2,600 people attending the gala was Debra Tice, the mother of Austin Tice, who has not been heard from since disappearing at a checkpoint in Syria in 2012. U.S. officials say they operate under the assumption that he is alive and are working to try to bring him home.
“Journalism is not a crime. Evan and Austin should be released immediately along with every other American detained abroad,” Biden said. “I promise you, I am working like hell to get them home.”
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