LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) drafted joint letters with numerous media outlets on Wednesday to urge the US government to provide humanitarian assistance and emergency visas to Afghans who assisted American forces during the past two decades of war.
In April, US President Joe Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, effectively ending America’s longest war.
The steady exodus over the past few months has coincided with fears that the Taliban will quickly take power again leaving Afghans interpreters, journalists, contractors, and support staff, who were previously protected by US and NATO forces, susceptible to retaliation.
The CPJ letters were addressed to Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US Congressional leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
“The need for action is urgent,” the letters said. “Afghans face grievous harm and death for having done nothing more than lending their labor and skills to make certain the world knew what was going on in their country. US troops have been there for the past 20 years.”
According to Reporters Without Borders, Afghanistan is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. Over the past two decades, 85 journalists have been killed in relation to their work as five were killed in 2020 alone.
Since the Taliban gained large swaths of territory in the country over the past few months, journalists in Afghanistan have gone into hiding. Some have been forced to broadcast the group’s fundamentalist political propaganda.
There have also been reports of the Taliban infiltrating news and media studios to approve scripts and check broadcasting licenses.
“The Taliban walked into the radio station and told us, ‘You guys can keep your broadcasting but you have to follow our policies,’” said one worker at Radio Kishim, in the northern province of Badakhshan.
Last week, Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from India, who worked for Reuters, was killed while covering the clashes between Afghan security forces and Taliban forces near a border crossing with Pakistan.
Siddiqui was working that week as a journalist with the Afghan security forces when he was killed in Taliban crossfire.
On Tuesday, the US Pentagon said it has completed more than 95 percent of the entire withdrawal process. Approximately 17,000 pieces of equipment that will not be left to the Afghan military have been handed over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction. The US has officially handed over seven facilities to the Afghan military, including Bagram Air Base.