Afghanistan: A worsening situation for journalists

2021-08-27. The world has watched in shock and growing disbelief at the rapidity of events over the past two weeks that have seen Afghanistan once more ruled by the Taliban. Journalists and media workers have been regular targets over the past 20 years of conflict, and for those who remain in Afghanistan, safety is of deepening concern.

Photograph: Rahmat Gu/AP

by Andrew Heslop | August 27, 2021

Many of our members have been in touch to ask how they can support colleagues and contribute to the ongoing, desperate efforts to evacuate journalists and their families.

Until now, all efforts have concentrated on extracting the maximum number of journalists before the deadline set by the US military of 31st August, beyond which they will no longer provide security for those looking to leave from the airport in Kabul.

We are fortunate to work with organisations across the safety of journalists and media support fields who have specific expertise and mandates to undertake the incredibly difficult task of identifying, vetting and clearing journalists to board the few remaining flights out of the country. Many of these organisations have offices in Afghanistan and local staff who have also been caught up in this terrible situation.

Colleagues in the Journalists In Distress Group (notably CPJ, the Rory Peck Trust, Free Press Unlimited) have been doing an immense job of compiling lists and identifying those in need and securing flights out of Kabul; the international Safety of Journalists coalition, the ministerial-level Media Freedom Coalition, and the ACOS Alliance have, in turn, been playing their role. WAN-IFRA is an active member in all of these networks.

Our support to them over recent days has involved advocating amongst our members to urge leading governments to include journalists in their evacuation plans. Those recommendations can be read and reproduced here.

It is an incredibly complex situation on the ground at the present moment. Those organisations specialised in frontline support to journalists in conflict zones are rightly leading efforts to evacuate.

There will be a crucial role for our community in the weeks and months to come when attention turns from emergency evacuation to finding host countries for those forced to flee – especially when it comes to securing meaningful work for the hundreds, likely thousands, of displaced journalists forced into exile by the dramatic resurgence of the Taliban. We will shortly announce more on how you can directly assist these efforts.

And, incredibly, individual WAN-IFRA members have already come forward offering their support. We can’t thank you enough for stepping up in solidarity with our Afghan colleagues at this desperate time.

It is vital that we remain vigilant and focus international attention on those now fleeing into exile and, particularly, those left behind. If the story is allowed to die, Afghanistan descends into total darkness.

Andrew Heslop

Executive Director, Press Freedom

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