WaPo publisher urges White House to help evacuate journalists in Afghanistan
The publisher of The Washington Post is urging the White House to oversee the safe removal of more than 200 journalists, support staff and their families from Afghanistan as the country has fallen under Taliban control.
“Urgent request on behalf of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post is to have our 204 journalists, support staff and families transported by US Military from the civilian side of the Kabul airport to the military side of the airport where they can be safe as they await evacuation flights,” Fred Ryan wrote to national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday in an email obtained by The Hill. “They are currently in danger and need the US government to get them to safety. Please advise as to how best to proceed.”
Ryan’s letter comes amid the chaos that has erupted in the war-torn nation following the Taliban’s takeover Sunday of the capital city of Kabul, where thousands have descended upon the local airport looking to flee the country.
President Biden on Saturday announced the U.S. would send an additional 1,000 troops to Afghanistan to help evacuate U.S. personnel following the Taliban advance.
Several reporters not working for the three media outlets outlined in Ryan’s letter have tweeted since last week about reporting on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
Returned to my hotel to find hotel security replaced by Taliban members with AKs. They had parked their U.S-made humvees outside. Said good evening. They looked startled. And I walked into the lobby and ordered room service.
Welcome to the new Kabul.
— Charlotte Bellis (@CharlotteBellis) August 16, 2021
Afghanistan: Taliban leaders refused to speak directly to award winning journalist Anisa Shaheed but she remains on the front line. Remember her name in the coming weeks & months – BBC News https://t.co/xTigoYls2i
— Mandy McAuley (@mandy_mcauley) August 15, 2021
In an anonymous op-ed published in Politico on Sunday, one Afghan journalist who has worked with American media outlets said he and his family are in hiding and described Kabul as a place where “fearful citizens” are “shocked by the sudden turn of events.”
“Afghan journalists are able to broadcast, but not as much as they normally do. Many media outlets were out; even now, not all of them work. People have run to their houses, they’re staying in their houses,” the journalist wrote. “I’ve left my destiny to the Almighty. Because I can no longer trust anybody.”
In a statement on Monday afternoon, James Risen, the director of the First Look Institute’s Press Freedom Defense Fund, urged the federal government to do all in its power to secure the safe exit of Afghans who worked for the U.S. and other western news media organizations.
Nonprofit organizations are now scrambling to rescue the translators and others who provided critical support to American reporters for the last two decades,” Risen said. “Still, the U.S. must continue to keep the Hamid Karzai International Airport open to allow for their safe passage. This is a moral imperative for the United States.”
Earlier this month, the White House said it would expand eligibility for at-risk Afghans looking to come to the United States as refugees, including current or former employees of U.S.-based media organizations or nongovernmental organizations.
A senior State Department official told The Hill applicants for the expanded program will be responsible for getting themselves out of the country, but said the federal government will “continue to review the situation on the ground and we continue to examine all options to protect those who served with or for us.”
Biden is slated to address the nation regarding the crisis in Afghanistan on Monday afternoon from the White House East Room.
Updated 3:45 p.m.