Despite Afghanistan vanishing from headline news, journalists on the ground continue to face attacks, arbitrary detentions, press freedom restrictions and killings with the Taliban and other terrorist organisations enjoying impunity for these crimes.
The IFJ South Asia Press Freedom Report documented 75 media rights violations in Afghanistan, including 12 killings and 30 arrests, between May 2020 and April 2021.
According to IFJ affiliate the Afghanistan National Journalist Union (ANJU)’s survey, only 2334 of a pre-Taliban high of 5069 journalists are still working and 72% of those who have lost their jobs are women.
The rights of women have been quickly and severely eroded in the country with widespread harassment, arrest and detention, and inhumane restrictions. Women working in journalism have not been exempt from these conditions and 87% claimed they have faced discrimination. A Taliban decree on May 19 forced all women broadcasters to cover their faces on air, under threat of forced removal from their employment.
The IFJ estimates that up to 1,000 journalists have fled the country and says it has received thousands of demands from journalists and media workers since the Taliban took over.
The Federation launched a special fund to support Afghan journalists which has helped save lives, either by supporting those fleeing the country or by providing essential basic food and medicines for those who remain in Afghanistan.
However, money is running out.
“We have already spent more than we raised and the need is still immense” said IFJ Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Dear who has been coordinating the help to Afghan journalists. “There are people forced to live on the street because they cannot afford rent, there are those still in hiding, families who eat just one meal a day, people who cannot afford operations or medicines they need.“
On top of the assistance provided by the IFJ Safety Fund many IFJ affiliates have offered further support. “From raising funds to providing humanitarian assistance, from lobbying governments for emergency visas and resettlement to providing safe shelter and food, to supporting evacuations and providing solidarity and assistance when those seeking refuge reach other countries, unions and journalists around the world have responded amazingly,” said Dear.
The IFJ has launched a global appeal to all its union members to support Afghan journalists by donating to the IFJ Safety Fund. "We still receive appeals every single day and we urgently need more funds to continue our solidarity work in Afghanistan", says the federation.
The IFJ is also urging governments around the world to provide more emergency visas for Afghan journalists and make the process simpler. “The threat facing many of them is real and there is a danger that those who have remained in exile in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey or other countries for many months are returned to Afghanistan when their temporary visas run out. Governments must do more to ensure they are living up to the international commitment on human rights they are bound by” warns Dear.
To donate to the Safety Fund, click here.
To urge governments to issue more emergency visas, click here to download our model letter.