LONDON: The UK government granted access to the country to over 200 Afghan journalists who worked with British media companies on Sunday, after an appeal by a coalition of top newspapers and broadcasters.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab agreed to issue visa waivers for the Afghan journalists for the risks they have taken to defend human rights and pursue media freedom through their work.
“We must protect those brave Afghan journalists who have worked so courageously to shine a light on what is really going on in Afghanistan,” Raab said. “That’s why we have granted these journalists and their media staff visa waivers to come to the UK.”
The resettlement scheme, which sits outside of current UK immigration laws, will apply to the Afghan journalists themselves and also their immediate family such as partners and dependent children under 18.
It is, however, unclear when the journalists and their families will be able to relocate to the UK given the situation in Afghanistan.
Last week, leading British media organizations and newspapers drafted an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to provide protection to media workers in Afghanistan under threat from the Taliban.
The letter was signed by every major newspaper, including the Observer, the Guardian and the Times, plus broadcasters Sky News and ITN.
Similar appeals emerged from the US and Germany, with major newspapers also urging their governments to provide protection for Afghan journalists and reporters who have provided essential services from Afghanistan over the past 20 years.
German news organizations including Der Spiegel, dpa International, Deutsche Welle and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung drafted an open letter addressing Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urging them to create an emergency visa program to provide safety for Afghan journalists.
Meanwhile on Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on G7 leaders to prioritize, and take immediate action to guarantee safety for, Afghan journalists and media workers.
In an open letter, the CPJ urged the G7 to coordinate support for journalists and press freedom within the UN system, and help Afghan journalists still working in the country.