LONDON – Britain will offer sanctuary to Afghan media workers who operated with UK outlets and now face deadly threats from the Taleban, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday (Aug 6).
Responding in The Times to an open letter by Britain’s leading newspapers and broadcasters calling on the government to offer refuge to Afghan colleagues, Mr Raab said the scheme will allow relocation in “exceptional cases”.
“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,” he 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 Taleban from their association with the UK.”
Every major British newspaper, as well as broadcasters Sky News and ITN, signed a letter to the government Thursday, warning the Taleban offensive sparked by the withdrawal of US-led forces put Afghan media workers at heightened risk.
The Islamist militants now control vast swathes of rural Afghanistan and are challenging government forces in several large cities, including Herat, near the western border with Iran, and Kandahar in the south.
The British media highlighted increasing violence against journalists including the murder in November last year of Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, who worked with British journalists, as well as the July killing of Indian photographer Danish Siddiqui from Reuters news agency.
The extension of the scheme to relocate Afghan workers comes amid pressure on the government to speed up its resettlement of translators and other staff who worked with British military during the two-decade conflict.
The government announced on Wednesday it aimed to relocate hundreds more Afghan translators and their families after senior military figures said it was not doing enough.