Sat, 18 May 2024

Anger grows over Afghan journalists still stranded by Home Office inaction

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Press members living under the Taliban, and living uncertain lives in Pakistan, must be given clarity say campaign groups


Hundreds of Afghan journalists remain stranded in increasingly “dire” circumstances as frustration mounts over the UK government’s refusal to share the latest entry criteria for its flagship resettlement programme.

Last weekend The Observer reported that a coalition of press freedom and free expression organisations, including Index on Censorship, the National Union of JournalistsPEN International and English PEN, have written to home secretary Suella Braverman asking why details of the next phase of the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme (ACRS) have yet to be revealed.

Germany, France and Kosovo are among the countries that have offered safe refuge to a number of journalists, with critics accusing the UK of failing to meet its obligations to the journalists who supported the west’s mission in Afghanistan.

Martin Bright, editor-at-large of Index on Censorship, said the organisation had received a “deluge” of relocation demands from Afghan journalists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran who had been offered no reassurance, despite apparently being prime candidates for resettlement, because of the UK government’s unwillingness to offer clarity.

“Without clarification on progress for ACRS, there is little if any support that can be provided, and this leaves the journalists vulnerable to threats of disappearance, violence, arrest, imprisonment and assassination,” said Bright.

Estimates indicate that 200 Afghan journalists have fled to Iran and Pakistan, many of them women, where they report being targeted as their visas expire, with little sign of getting their paperwork renewed. Index is talking directly to 35 at-risk journalists in Afghanistan and Pakistan via an encrypted platform.

One case involves a female Afghan journalist who fled to Pakistan, itself a perilous place due to the presence of Taliban sympathisers – and was routinely harassed there due to her nationality and ethnicity, culminating in a street attack during which she was sexually assaulted.

Last month, reports emerged that a number of Afghan journalists had been arrested in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and their phones, laptops and cameras seized.

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