Media Freedom and Journalist Organisations Call for Urgent Clarity on UK Visas for Journalists

Nine media freedom and journalist organisations, including one of the country’s largest supporters of independent Afghan media outlets, have called on the UK to ensure Afghan journalists, not just those with UK links, are considered a high priority for the UK’s new resettlement scheme. Several UK newspapers also joined the letter urging action from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

The organisations, which include the National Union of Journalists, English PEN, RSF and Internews – which helped found some of Afghanistan’s best-known independent media outlets – said they were seriously concerned for the safety of journalists and other media workers in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover.

“Collectively we have received and verified hundreds of requests from journalists who do not work for western media outlets, but who fear for their lives. Despite raising the alarm more than a week ago, there is still no clarity on how or whether such individuals will be prioritised for resettlement,” the groups wrote in the letter.

They said that despite appeals from various media groups over the past week, the Foreign Office had yet to make clear whether journalists would be considered among those most at risk and still had no clear mechanism for processing requests for assistance.

The groups asked that the UK urgently:

  • Explicitly adds Afghan journalists (not just those who have worked directly for British media outlets) and their dependants to the list of those prioritised for immediate resettlement.
  • Establishes a clear and secure mechanism for people to submit names for consideration as being at high risk.

“The UK has made media freedom one of its key international priorities. It is the co-chair of the Media Freedom Coalition of governments who have expressly committed to uphold press freedom and protect journalists,” said Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Internews Europe.

“The UK has a moral responsibility to help all those who may now be at risk for upholding this democratic value – not just those with direct links to the UK. Anyone who has worked as a journalist – or acted to support an independent and free media in Afghanistan – is now at grave risk.”

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Internews Europe

Jeremy Dear, Deputy General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists

Christophe Deloire, Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN

Ross Holder, Asia Regional Programme Coordinator, PEN International

Kiran Nazish, Founding Director, Coalition for Women in Journalism

Clothilde Redfern, Director, Rory Peck Trust

Ruth Smeeth, CEO, Index on Censorship

Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary, National Union of Journalists

Additional signatories:

Gemma Aldridge, Editor, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People

Michael Booker, Editor, Sunday Express

James Brindle, CEO, The Journalists’ Charity

Lloyd Embley, Editor in Chief, Reach Plc

Gary Jones, Editor, Daily Express

Alison Phillips, Editor, Daily Mirror and Chair, Women in Journalism

Katharine Viner, Editor in Chief, Guardian News & Media