Access follows campaign by media coalition after earlier visa denials.
LONDON (AA) – Over 200 Afghan journalists have been granted visas by the British government following a campaign by a UK media coalition to reverse an earlier motion that denied their access to the country following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is under pressure to resign after failing to return to the UK following the fall of Kabul, agreed on Sunday to issue visa waivers for the journalists after the government recognized and realized the risks they took and dangers they could possibly face under the new regime.
“We must protect those brave Afghan journalists who have worked so courageously to shine a light on what is really going on in Afghanistan. That’s why we have granted these journalists and their media staff visa waivers to come to the UK,” Raab said in a statement.
Under the special visas granted to them, the group of journalists will be granted “leave to enter” access to the UK and will not be governed by the usual rules of the UK immigration law, giving them the chance to settle in the country. The journalists will be allowed to bring their immediate families with them.
Prior to Sunday’s decision, journalists were not qualified under pre-existing schemes that allowed Afghan nationals entry into the UK. A coalition of British media organizations, however, launched a campaign to reverse that rule in an open letter published last week and addressed Prime Minister Boris Johnson along with Raab himself.
“Our reporting has been heavily reliant on the loyalty and commitment of the Afghan journalists, translators and support staff who have worked with us throughout this period. They were committed to the vision, shared by the British government and its Nato allies, of a free media as a vital part of a stable, peaceful democracy,” the open letter said.
“We write to you to highlight the urgent need for a special Afghan visa programme for Afghan staff who have worked for the British media so that they and their families can leave Afghanistan and find safety in the United Kingdom,” the media coalition added.
Signatories to the open letter included major UK outlets such as The Guardian, Financial Times, The Economist, Sky News, and ITN. The campaign referenced the US government’s scheme to allow journalists and media staff in Afghanistan travel visas to the US and urged the British government to follow suit and do the same.
The Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 by the US-led NATO coalition following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The US-led coalition, which included the UK as a key ally and player in the war, would occupy Afghanistan for 20 years and spend up to a trillion dollars attempting to rebuild the country as well as its armed forces.
The former administration of Donald Trump, however, ordered an end to the US’s longest war in 2021 and current President Joe Biden has fast-tracked this withdrawal. Despite the decades-old intervention, the Taliban have been able to recapture all major cities and provinces of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, in less than two weeks.