LONDON: Britain’s leading newspapers and broadcasters on Thursday urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give sanctuary to media workers in Afghanistan under threat from the resurgent Taliban.
In an open letter, every major newspaper plus broadcasters Sky News and ITN said media workers risk “persecution, physical harm, incarceration, torture or death.”
The “peril is acute and intensifying” as the Islamist insurgents take control of vast swathes of the countryside and key border towns, they added.
“President Biden’s decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan without conditions is a risk to western security, but more urgently still to Afghanistan’s people, the letter said.
“None are more exposed than Afghan civilians who have served western military forces during their 20-year mission to thwart terrorism and Islamist extremism in the country, and in particular those who have helped western media organizations to report it,” it continued.
“We and other media organizations implore and plead with Boris Johnson and (Foreign Secretary) Dominic Raab to put in place a special visa program for journalists and other media workers who are at risk in their home country. Honour and duty require it.”
The letter was organized by the Times and The Guardian, who fear the return of the Taliban following the NATO pull-out spells danger for those who helped western entities during the two-decade war, or who reported critically on the group.
They pointed to the murder of Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a reporter with Radio Free Europe, who was killed in November last year by an explosive device attached to his car.
“Time is running out. Should Afghan journalists be left to the Taliban’s mercies, the costs to Britain’s reputation will be immense,” they wrote.
A number of Afghan journalists and media workers have been killed or wounded in attacks over recent months.
Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer backed the campaign, saying “the UK must not abandon them.”