Calls to look after journalists as they join other human beings scrabbling for the opportunity to get out of Kabul, have resulted in some improvements in visa arrangements.
America’s News Media Alliance reports that legislation has been modified to add freelancers, stringers and “other comparable arrangements” to the ‘employee’ definition needed to qualify for the country’s Priority-2 US Refugee Admission from Afghanistan.
The change is a response to a letter from more than 20 news organisations, among them the NMA. It says the expansion is “a pivotal response to the chaos in Afghanistan, as the Taliban takes over Kabul and specifically targets journalists with particular aggression towards female journalists.
“The safety of these journalists, as well as their ability to operate without danger in neighbouring countries is the immediate concern.”
The Alliance also calls for Special Immigrant Visas to contain “a specific media carveout” in order to protect foreign journalists and allow them to relocate to the US, by way of a long-term solution. “While the timing and costs of these solutions remain at issue, ensuring the safety of the many endangered journalists is the predominant priority,” it says.
The thoughts of all in the news industry should be with these journalists, for whom it may simply be “too little, too late”.
In a piece in USA Today this week, Ryan Crocker and Jamie Fly described Afghan journalists as “sparks of hope”, now deserving of an expedited path to safety.
The Taliban having targetted and killed journalists, Crocker and Fly say helping them will send a powerful signal about an enduring commitment to a free press at home and around the world.
While attention has been focussed on getting diplomats and those who worked for the US military to safety, “some of the most vulnerable individuals are those who never worked directly for the US government, but who benefitted from the relative freedom and openness that the international coalition helped protect,” they say.