UK: NUJ and the IFJ urge government to offer assistance to Afghan journalists

UK media organisations and the IFJ’s affiliate the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab asking them to offer assistance to Afghan media workers as Taliban violence intensifies. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) backs the call for urgent support for Afghan media workers in danger.

An Afghan National Army commando on August 1, 2021. Credits: HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

In the open letter, sent on 4 August, the organisations called for the introduction of a special visa programme to allow Afghan media workers working for UK news outlets and their families to leave Afghanistan and stay in the United Kingdom safely.

According to the letter, such a programme would concern “a few dozen people including their family members” and is more than urgent as media workers risk their lives reporting from Afghanistan for British media. Throughout the years, their reporting has been vital, but is now too dangerous amid the rising violence in the country since the withdrawal of NATO troops.

Journalists are being particularly targeted by the Taliban. On 16 July, Danish Siddiqui, an Indian photojournalist with Reuters news agency, was killed in crossfire while covering a fierce battle between the Afghan security forces and Taliban militants. He was wearing his press jacket at the time of the killing. His body was then mutilated while in the custody of the Taliban.

The open letter said: “If left behind, those Afghan journalists and media employees who have played such a vital role in informing the British public by working for British media will be left at the risk of persecution, of physical harm, incarceration, torture, or death.”

The UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab MP, has indicated that he recognises the bravery of Afghan journalists and will consider allowing those who worked for UK media outlets to access a scheme that would enable them to come and live in the UK.

In the United States, Joe Biden's administration announced on 2 August that they were extending access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to at-risk “Afghans who are or were employed in Afghanistan by a U.S.-based media organisation or non-governmental organization”. The signatories of the open letter called on the UK to follow similar steps.

NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating quickly and it is time for the authorities here to step-up and offer support and assistance to those who are threatened.” 

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “The IFJ and its Afghan affiliates are closely monitoring the situation of media workers in Afghanistan, which is getting worse day by day. No story is worth risking a life. We call on the international government and national authorities to do everything in their power to protect all journalists, staffers and their families.”

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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