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Case of Afghan journalists left stranded by UK Government to be heard by Administrative Court

On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists – eight BBC journalists in Afghanistan continue fight for safety.

Posted on 03 November 2022

On the International Day to End Impunity Against Journalists, eight prominent Afghan journalists remain at risk from the Taliban as a result of the refusal by the UK Government to relocate them to safety.

The eight journalists worked for the BBC and other agencies supporting the British military in Afghanistan; exposing Taliban corruption and abuse, distributing information, and promoting media freedom, democracy and human rights.

After the military withdrawal, Kabul fell to the Taliban on 15 August 2021, putting these journalists at escalated risk. The then Foreign Secretary promised safety to Afghan journalists under threat from the Taliban based on their association with the UK. They were recognised as particularly vulnerable having supported UK objectives.

Whilst some journalists were relocated to the UK, this group of BBC journalists were not. Their applications under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) went unanswered for almost a year and were only decided after a legal challenge was brought. The Government conceded the case and issued an apology for the failure to progress their applications, one case having been lost in the system entirely. A review was promised to prevent recurrence.

Far from making decisions to grant the journalists safety, they were refused. The decisions, in identical terms, said the journalists were not eligible for relocation but without giving individual reasons why. A second set of legal challenges to the refusals were brought, which the Government is defending. The claims have expedited and are listed for a hearing on 15 December 2022.

The eight BBC journalists have been targeted, threatened, attacked, some detained and tortured, and some family members too. This is in conditions of complete impunity.

The National Union of Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists have called on the UK to help secure safe passage for the group.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) the Taliban has entered an increasingly stringent media war, even following a year of suppression and violence on journalists. Just today the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released new concerns about Afghan journalists and human rights abuses of more than 200 reporters since August 2021. Incidents of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment, threats and intimidation are at a record high.

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists was established to ensure support to journalists and fight against impunity. The eight BBC journalists call upon the UK Government to discharge its responsibility towards them, because having worked alongside them are at grave risk as a result.

The journalists and their families are represented by teams at Leigh Day including Erin Alcock, Leila Albin, Olivia Whitehorn, and Doughty Street Chambers, barristers, Adam Straw KC, Catherine Meredith, Donnchadh Greene.

Erin Alcock
Human rights Judicial review

Erin Alcock

Erin is an associate in the human rights team

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