The Taliban’s rapid advance into Kabul and the accompanying takeover in Afghanistan have endangered the safety of journalists working in the country. People who have been working with the West are also particularly at risk.
“The UJF is deeply concerned about the situation of our Afghan colleagues. All journalists are now afraid,” said union president Hanne Aho in response to the latest developments in Afghanistan.
“Finnish women journalists have been training Afghan journalists for almost ten years in a project whose local trainers and many participants are now in dire need of protection.”
For three months, Taliban fighters have been threatening and abusing Afghan journalists and demanding that they report positively on the perpetrators.
The Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) has told the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) that almost all Afghan journalists have fled their homes and that 140 local media outlets have been closed. The news agency ANI reports that at least 30 journalists were beaten or killed by the end of July.
Taliban fighters have reportedly descended on journalists’ homes, asking questions and searching for female journalists in particular, said Aho. Being a woman in the workplace has been regarded as an offence and now women journalists are under particular threat. If journalists have criticised the Taliban or reported on women’s rights, they are already considered guilty of serious offences. Links with the international media are now also a major danger for journalists.
German and US media have appealed to their governments to help journalists who have assisted the Western media to reach safety. The US has added Afghan nationals employed by the US media to its refugee policy.
Finland has said that the 170 people it has granted asylum to do not include those working for the media. However, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has left the door slightly ajar “if the situation gets very bad.”
Haavisto has said that Finland is actively monitoring the situation in Afghanistan together with other EU countries.
The UJF believes that the protection policy should be extended to include Afghans working for the Finnish media before it is too late.
“We cannot deny protection to people who have risked their lives so that we could know what is happening in Afghanistan,” said Hanne Aho.