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Monday, June 5, 2023

Anger Builds over as Afghan Journalists Remain Stranded in Dire Conditions

A group of press freedom and free speech groups sent a letter to home secretary Suella Braverman this weekend

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UNITED KINGDOM: As anger grows over the UK government’s reluctance to release the most recent entry requirements for its flagship resettlement program, hundreds of Afghan journalists are still stranded in what are becoming more and more “dire” conditions.

A group of press freedom and free speech groups, including Index on Censorship, the National Union of Journalists, PEN International, and English PEN, sent a letter to home secretary Suella Braverman this weekend asking why the next phase of the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme (ACRS) hasn’t been fully explained.

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Several journalists who supported the west’s mission in Afghanistan have found safe haven in Germany, France, and Kosovo. However, some people say that the UK is not doing enough to help those journalists.

Martin Bright, editor-at-large of Index on Censorship, says that Afghan journalists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran asked to move because the UK government wouldn’t explain what was going on. There was no guarantee that these journalists would be able to move, but it looked like they were among the best candidates.

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Estimates show that 200 Afghan journalists, many of whom are women, have fled to Iran and Pakistan. They say they are being targeted there because their visas are about to expire, and there isn’t much evidence that they will be able to get new ones. The index can talk to 35 journalists in Pakistan and Afghanistan who are in danger right away because the platform they use is encrypted.

One instance involves a female Afghan journalist who fled to Pakistan, which is dangerous because there are Taliban sympathizers there. She was treated badly in Pakistan because of her nationality and race, and it all came to a head when she was sexually assaulted in the street.

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A few Afghan journalists were reportedly detained in the Pakistani city of Islamabad last month, and their phones, laptops, and cameras were taken.

Boris Johnson, who was prime minister at the time, announced the creation of ACRS in August 2021. He put a special focus on journalists and people who fought for democracy, women’s rights, and free speech.

People who had already been evacuated could start the program in earnest in January 2022. After that, a second “pathway” was opened for refugees in nearby countries like Pakistan and Iran.

The third pathway is expected to completely open this year after giving preference to contractors who worked for organizations like the British Council. Even though there are no details yet, journalists will likely be one of its top priorities.

Also Read: Pakistan-Afghanistan Torkham Border Crossing Closed, Gunshots Heard by Locals


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