UK news media repeat call to evacuate Afghan journalists

British media organisations have again urged the government to evacuate Afghan journalists and translators who worked with UK media outlets, with many local staff fearing Taliban reprisals.

Dozens of local reporters and producers associated with British organisations remain in Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul on Sunday. This month the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, promised to consider relocating local journalists to the UK on an “exceptional basis” if there was evidence they were under imminent threat because of their involvement with Britain.

However, sources in Kabul suggested that during the last week the UK government had not evacuated a single Afghan journalist linked to British media. By comparison, the US military has already begun flying local staff who worked for American news outlets such as the Washington Post out of the country.

Earlier this month, the Guardian led a coalition of British newspapers and broadcasters in an appeal to the government to expand its refugee visa programme for Afghans. Now representatives of the Guardian, the Observer, the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, the Economist, the Mail on Sunday, the Sun, the Sunday Telegraph, Sky News, and ITN have written again to Boris Johnson and Rabb to ask for rapid progress to ensure the safety of staff who have worked for UK media organisations.

In the letter, they said: “When British media organisations wrote to you earlier this month about the grave Taliban threat to Afghan journalists and translators who had worked with us, you responded almost immediately. You recognised their vital contribution to a free press to reporting on the British mission in Afghanistan and promised colleagues at risk a path to safety. President [Joe] Biden did the same in the United States.

“But now, the Taliban have arrived in Kabul and our colleagues are trapped there. With evacuation flights resuming, we need you to act on your promise to protect those who worked with journalists and get them to safety outside of Afghanistan. As I am sure you have seen, our American colleagues have asked for and expect the same. Given the threats to the safety of Afghan journalists we ask the British government to urgently take these steps to protect our colleagues.”

Last month Raab said: “The vibrant Afghan media is one of the greatest successes in Afghanistan in the last 19 years, and it should be celebrated and protected.”

He acknowledged the threat faced by Afghan staff who have worked for British media organisations in Afghanistan, “in particular the risk of reprisals they face from the Taliban from their association with the UK”.

Rabb said: “Under existing schemes, we are able to consider individual cases for relocation on an exceptional basis, where there is evidence they are under imminent threat due to the nature of their engagement with the UK. Journalists (and those supporting them) can be eligible for our support, depending on the individual circumstances that apply.”

The Taliban have so far attempted to portray itself as a friend of the Afghan media, allowing its representatives to be interviewed by female presenters on television channels and insisting they welcome journalists. However, there are doubts as to whether this attitude represents a long-term shift in attitudes, with female reporters fleeing their homes in fear of reprisals.

Comments are closed.