Pakistan: Exiled Afghan Journalists Seek Assistance

Press Release

ISLAMABAD, 19 June 2024: National media watchdog organization Freedom Network has called on government of PM Shehbaz Sharif, international community and United Nations to come forward to support Afghan refuge journalists who are coping with a number of issues and challenges since they left Afghanistan after Taliban takeover in August 2021.

The appeal for support from all relevant stakeholders for these refugee journalists numbering less than 200 comes as the World Refugee Day is observed globally, including Pakistan, on June 20.

“Let’s join hands to help and assist these refugee journalists, who are cramped by a host of issues and challenges,” Freedom Network Executive Director Iqbal Khattak said Wednesday in a press statement. “Helping these refugee journalists is a pledge we need make to support free media in Afghanistan.”

Media vanished from Afghanistan with the collapse of President Dr Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul on 15 August 2021 and most journalists fled the country to take shelter in third countries and they transited through Pakistan mostly.

Pakistani visa, job, police-linked harassment, no access to public sector healthcare and education for these refugee journalists and their children, long wait for interviews with western embassies for third resettlement are challenges these refugee journalists are mostly coping with.

The UN refugee agency is not able to register these Afghan journalists as Islamabad is not allowing their registration to discourage a fresh wave of new arrivals in the country where still Afghan nationals are living in thousands without much support from the international community.

International media rights organizations are supporting these journalists by extending them humanitarian assistance and support letters to recommend them for western and non-western embassies in Islamabad to help them resettle in third countries. Many of them were able to leave Pakistan after they were granted visas. However, there are some less than 200 journalists still waiting. Some have received bad news of visa rejection also.

Shershah Hamdard is a senior journalist and author of many books on journalism and he is living in suburbs of Islamabad for last two years with his family. He made a passionate appeal in a video message Freedom Network recorded to connect him with relevant stakeholders through airwaves to share the needs his fellow journalists from Afghanistan are facing.

“The Afghan journalists are facing many problems. We urge all the stakeholders to come forward to help us in this need of hour,” Shershah Hamdard, speaking in native Pashto language, addressed the Pakistan government, the international community through its embassies in Islamabad and the UN systems.

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