Government: ‘Top Priority’ To Help Journalists in Afghanistan

Helping British journalists and Afghans who are eligible to come to the UK escape Afghanistan remains a top priority for Government, a Foreign Office Minister has said this week.

The Government remains committed to facilitating the departure of both Afghan and British nationals from Afghanistan although travel within Afghanistan remains dangerous, and many border crossings have been closed, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said.

He was responding to a Parliamentary question from Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury asking what steps Government is taking to prioritise the safe evacuation from Afghanistan of journalists currently, and formerly, employed by the BBC.

Through the Journalism Matters campaign, the News Media Association has highlighted the grave threats to journalists working overseas as well as the rising intimidation and abuse faced by journalists in the UK.

“Journalists across the globe covering demonstrations related to COVID-19 restrictions or vaccinations face abuse, intimidation and assault while doing their jobs, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists,” NMA chief executive Owen Meredith said in an article.

“At the time of writing, Mexico has the grim title of being the deadliest country for journalists to work in, with seven killings in the country so far in 2021 out of a global total of 35, according to Reporters Without Borders.

“We have also seen the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, prompting journalists and those who have assisted them in their work to flee the country in fear of their lives. And, closer to home, the killing of Lyra McKee in April 2019 serves as a stark reminder of the threat.”

In piece for USA Today, journalist Fatema Hosseini wrote a detailed account of her experiences escaping Afghanistan as the Taliban took control of the country.  

Responding to Baroness Bonham-Carter’s question, Lord Ahmad said: “It remains a top priority to help those British nationals and those Afghans eligible to come to the UK, to leave Afghanistan, including journalists.  Since the end of the military evacuation, the Government has facilitated the departure of both Afghan and British nationals from Afghanistan.

“Although travel within Afghanistan remains dangerous, and many border crossings have been closed during this period, we have also helped both British nationals and eligible Afghans when they have crossed into third countries, from where our diplomatic missions have been able to support their onward travel to the UK.

“We will continue to work to take advantage of all opportunities to help those eligible to come to the UK to leave Afghanistan.”