AHEAD OF THE G7 SUMMIT on the situation in Afghanistan, announced by US President Joe Biden, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for a special plan for evacuating endangered Afghan journalists and human rights defenders that would mean postponing the completion of the US military withdrawal.

RSF issues this call at a time when the United States seems to have just one priority in Afghanistan, the evacuation of its own citizens and former employees.

The evacuation plans prepared by other countries, including European ones, are being held up by the way access to aircraft is being managed. This is blocking the evacuation of those on the lists (provided by NGOs such as RSF) of sensitive persons who are in danger.

To allow their evacuation, RSF calls for a postponement of the end of US military operations in Afghanistan beyond the date currently envisaged. It will be materially impossible to complete the evacuation of all those in great danger, including Afghan journalists, by 31 August.

One of the objectives of the plan requested by RSF would be the creation of access and identification facilities for journalists and human rights defenders who are on the lists of different countries and organisations. A humanitarian corridor and a special perimeter should be considered.

“The image of the United States as a defender of press freedom and human rights is at stake, ”RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Since Joe Biden’s election as US president, very positive signals have been sent and initiatives have been taken in many countries that we have welcomed. We now expect the provisions for the safety of endangered Afghan journalists to match these undertakings and aspirations. We are receiving dozens and dozens of urgent evacuation requests. Our problem today is not getting visas or seats on planes, it is making it possible for these people to access planes.”

RSF has also requested an “Arria formula” meeting of the UN Security Council, to discuss the situation of journalists and media in Afghanistan  and to draw up an emergency plan for Afghan journalism.

RSF calls on the Security Council to hold such a meeting with the utmost urgency in order to address the unprecedented crisis resulting from the fall of Kabul, and the situation of journalists in particular.

The Security Council, which adopted Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists in 2006 and Resolution 2222 on the protection of journalists in 2015, can now play a decisive role in ensuring the protection of journalists and media in Afghanistan. Only a concerted response by governments can address the terrible challenge facing Afghan journalists and media workers today.

In view of the rules governing standard Security Council meetings and the urgency of the situation, RSF thinks that an ‘Arria formula’ meeting of the Council would be appropriate. This is an informal meeting that does not comply with the Council’s normal requirements. It would open the discussion to government representatives, actors and experts and would allow governments attending the meeting to receive first-hand information from actors who are directly concerned, such as RSF. Leading Afghan journalists could also be invited to address the Council, and would have a chance to appeal for the survival of Afghan journalism.

Bringing together governments, civil society organisations, media executives and Afghan journalists, this meeting could lay the foundation of an “Emergency Plan for Afghan Journalism” that would include:

  • Guarantees for the safety and protection of Afghan journalists and media wherever they may be;
  • Help for journalists who want to leave Afghanistan, in particular, simplified procedures for obtaining visas and payment of travel costs.
  • The creation of a fund to cover the immediate needs of Afghan journalists and media wherever they may be.
  • Coordination and consultation with regard to the sustainability of Afghan media outlets and their possible transfer abroad, including to neighbouring countries.
  • Assistance for Afghan organisations such as the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ) and the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC).

This plan could be the subject of a Security Council Resolution that includes a request to all member states to support Afghan journalism, both in Afghanistan and abroad.

Around 100 media outlets have stopped operating in recent weeks, while hundreds of journalists have gone into hiding or are trying to flee the country. The media outlets still operating are doing so in accordance with the conditions set by the country’s new masters.

Afghanistan was ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index that RSF published last April.

* Source: Reporters Without Borders