UK agrees to consider providing safe haven for Afghan journalists

U-turn over those who worked for British media follows outcry from newspapers and broadcasters

The foreign secretary has agreed to consider allowing Afghan journalists who worked for the British to flee to the UK if their lives are endangered by the resurgence of the Taliban, after an outcry from a coalition of British newspapers and broadcasters.

Dominic Raab signalled the policy U-turn on Friday, saying he recognised the bravery of the Afghan journalists. A scheme that was set up to offer a safe haven to Afghans who worked with the British will be expanded to include those who worked as journalists.

“We recognise the bravery of Afghan journalists and those that have worked tirelessly to support them in the pursuit of media freedom and the defence of human rights. The vibrant Afghan media is one of the greatest successes in Afghanistan in the last 19 years, and it should be celebrated and protected,” he said.

The comments came after UK media organisations, including the Guardian, wrote an open letter to Raab and Boris Johnson expressing concern for the safety of many of the journalists who had worked for them in Afghanistan during the conflict there.

In response, Raab said: “Your letter highlighted the threat faced by Afghan staff who have worked for your media organisations in Afghanistan, in particular the risk of reprisals they face from the Taliban from their association with the UK.”

In the open letter, each of the UK’s major newspapers and broadcasters wrote that their ability to keep the British public informed of events in Afghanistan over the past two decades had been “heavily reliant on the loyalty and commitment of the Afghan journalists, translators and support staff”.

The organisations added: “They were committed to the vision, shared by the British government and its Nato allies, of a free media as a vital part of a stable, peaceful democracy.”

The letter warned that fighting was worsening in Afghanistan and, with government forces having lost control of more than half the country, there are “very real fears of brutal Taliban reprisal against those who worked for British media organisations” once British and Nato units pull out.

“In recent years, the Taliban have masterminded a campaign of targeted killings against reporters. Prominent victims include Helmand-based reporter Elyas Dayee, who was a vital contributor to much of the UK and international coverage from the province where Britain focused its military effort. He was murdered last year. The Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Danish Siddiqui was killed in Afghanistan and his body mutilated in Taliban custody last month.”

Raab’s announcement also coincided with the killing of the head of the Afghan government’s media information centre on Friday. Citing the Afghan interior ministry, Agence France-Presse reported that the Taliban shot Dawa Khan Menapal days after warning they would target senior administration figures in retaliation for increased airstrikes.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson, said: “We are committed to freedom of speech and protection of impartial journalists, whether freelance or affiliated with private media outlets, and their activities. They are needed in a new Afghanistan. The policy is clear in this regard. I don’t know whether Kabul administration journalists fall under this category.”


Kevin Rawlinson and Emma Graham-Harrison

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
UK news media repeat call to evacuate Afghan journalists
PM and foreign secretary asked to rapidly ensure safety of those who worked for British media

Jim Waterson Media editor

18, Aug, 2021 @4:16 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on the Taliban’s advance: we still have a responsibility to Afghans | Editorial
Editorial: The human cost is accumulating with the withdrawal of US and British troops


06, Aug, 2021 @5:25 PM

Article image
UK nationals of Afghan origin being overlooked in Kabul airlift, claim lawyers
Most single-nationality Britons now evacuated but some with dual citizenship say they are being given lower priority

Amelia Gentleman

25, Aug, 2021 @6:49 PM

Article image
Foreign Office warns Britons in Afghanistan over risks of trying to flee
Several of those still in Kabul say they are struggling to get clear information about what to do next

Amelia Gentleman

31, Aug, 2021 @5:37 PM

Article image
Too little, too late: why it was panic stations in Whitehall as Kabul fell
How the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan precipitated a political one at the heart of UK government

Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editor

20, Aug, 2021 @3:14 PM

Article image
Dominic Raab seems to contradict PM by saying Taliban takeover was surprise
Foreign secretary says Afghanistan’s fall came ‘faster than anyone anticipated’ during Islamabad visit

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor and Haroon Janjua

03, Sep, 2021 @12:23 PM

Article image
Yesterday’s war: why Raab did not foresee Afghanistan catastrophe
Analysis: minister’s call log shows he had little interest in Afghanistan, prioritising India and south-east Asia

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

03, Sep, 2021 @2:38 PM

Article image
UK and US took ‘joint decision’ to keep Kabul airport gate open
British sources dispute claim US forces kept gate ‘open longer than they wanted to’ before deadly attack last week

Dan Sabbagh, Heather Stewart and Patrick Wintour

31, Aug, 2021 @6:33 PM

Article image
Journalists to use 'immune system' software against fake news
Full Fact software backed by George Soros and Pierre Omidyar fact-checks statements in parliament and news media in real time

Robert Booth

08, Aug, 2017 @1:52 PM

Article image
Ex-BBC journalists in Kabul say corporation ignored pleas for help
Fourteen Afghans including presenters, reporters and producers are now in hiding from the Taliban

Matthew Weaver

01, Sep, 2021 @9:33 AM