"I just want to get the story right," Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich would tell friends.

Which the insightful, intrepid journalist, one of the last Western reporters stationed in Russia, consistently did.

Now that the 31-year-old, American-born son of Jewish Soviet emigres has been arrested in Russia for alleged espionage — charges that the Wall Street Journal, the White House, media-freedom organizations and fellow journalists across continents categorically deny — it's important to get the story right about what his arrest says concerning President Vladimir Putin's Russia, and what the extraordinary effort to secure Gershkovich's release says about the West.

"In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the Kremlin's continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish journalists and civil society voices," said Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a rare direct call to his Russian counterpart.

Blinken's rhetoric shows how serious the U.S. considers the case. Espionage trials in Russia rarely end in acquittal and are often conducted in secret. If convicted, Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in a Russian jail.

On Wednesday, Blinken said that he had "no doubt" that Gershkovich was being "wrongfully detained." A State Department review of such a designation is underway, and if Blinken's informed opinion is confirmed the case would be upped to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

On Tuesday, lawyers from the Journal were finally able to meet with Gershkovich and reported that he was "in good health and grateful for the outpouring of support" — some of which has been organized by the paper, including a guide to using social media to support him.

Allies rallied, too, on a country-by-country and collective basis. "His arrest is of great concern," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. "It is important to respect freedom of the press, the rights of journalists and the rights to ask questions and to do their jobs."

Which is what Gershkovich was doing, said Clayton Weimers, executive director of Reporters Without Borders USA, which was among the many media-freedom organizations springing to action.

"It's often telling that the FSB [today's version of the KGB] description of espionage is tantamount to journalism, because that's what they see reporting as," Weimers said. "They see honest, objective reporting itself as a threat to their government."

In fact, by detaining Gershkovich, "Russia has crossed the Rubicon and sent a clear message to foreign correspondents that they will not be spared from the ongoing purge of the independent media in the country," Gulnoza Said, the Europe and Central Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement. CPJ, on behalf of more than 30 media organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, sent an open letter to Russia's ambassador to the United States that said that Gershkovich's "unwarranted and unjust arrest is a significant escalation in your government's anti-press actions."

The "bigger context," Weimers said, is that "it has a really chilling effect on future reporting. Russia has been deteriorating in terms of press freedom for basically the entire time Putin has been president again." The impact, continued Weimers, has been mostly within Russia, where "there is essentially no independent press left." They've "all been forced abroad, especially since the invasion of Ukraine. But now this sends a message to the foreign press that 'you're not safe here, either.'"

Seizing Gershkovich "is kind of going back to the U.S.S.R.; It's just one more component of closing down," said Kathryn Stoner, director of Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, "they've just completely unwound all of the open-government, open-economic reform that they've done over the last 30 years. This just further contributes to it."

The unwinding impacts Stoner herself. She's been banned from Russia because, just like Gershkovich, she was doing her job. "I use data, right? That's what they don't like," Stoner said. Beyond the quantitative, qualitative evaluations are made about Russia by scholars like Stoner, who said that many of her colleagues believe Putin's Russia today is like 1982 under Leonid Brezhnev.

This Russian regression "wasn't predetermined," Stoner said. "It wasn't inevitable. Russians have no allergy to open government."

But the Russian government seemingly does.

Previously, Weimers said, "there were lines that even the Kremlin was not really comfortable crossing. Until recently, foreign journalists enjoyed some basic level of safety by virtue of being foreign citizens and even having the backing of media organizations and for foreign governments." That's "really eroded" amid the Ukraine invasion, including Russian troops firing on clearly labeled journalists, Weimers said. "We've entered sort of a new era here where the Kremlin is just not respecting the rule of law when it comes to press freedom."

No one knows that more than Russian journalists, many of whom have had to escape to Europe lest they end up arrested themselves. But reflective of how Gershkovich did indeed get the story about Russia right, at least 250 of them have rallied in solidarity with their American colleague, signing an open letter demanding his immediate release and saying, in part, that "Evan Gershkovich has an impeccable reputation as a correspondent whose work has always met the highest standards of journalism."

Among those signing was Dmitry Muratov, who along with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace."

Democracy and lasting peace won't happen in Russia without citizens having objective reporting. "Right now, of course, foreign journalists are the main source of information about what is happening on the ground [in Russia]," Maksim Kurnikov, a broadcast journalist living in exile in Berlin, told the New York Times.

Gershkovich's last dispatch for the Journal, "Russia's Economy Is Starting to Come Undone" — a deeply detailed look at the country's economic contractions, in part because of aggressive Western sanctions over the war — proves the point.

It's not just Russia's economy that's come undone. As evidenced by Evan Gershkovich's unlawful detention, it's Russia's entire government. And it's not starting — it's accelerating.