Bipartisan group of lawmakers call on Biden to ensure journalists safe passage out of Afghanistan

Bipartisan group of lawmakers call on Biden to ensure journalists safe passage out of Afghanistan
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers are urging President BidenJoe BidenBiden: Democrats' spending plan is 'a bigger darn deal' than Obamacare Biden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Biden: Comment that DOJ should prosecute those who defy subpoenas 'not appropriate' MORE to ensure that journalists working in Afghanistan, now under control of the Taliban, are extracted safely amid an increasingly dangerous environment.

The letter was written by Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Manchin heatedly dismisses rumors of leaving Democratic Party Bannon eyed as key link between White House, Jan. 6 riot MORE (D-Calif.) and Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotLiberal group launches campaign urging Republicans to support Biden's agenda Blinken grilled in first hearing since Afghanistan withdrawal Bipartisan group of lawmakers call on Biden to ensure journalists safe passage out of Afghanistan MORE (R-Ohio), co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Freedom of the Press Caucus. 

"We believe it is critically important that the United States make all effort to protect and evacuate Americans and our Afghan partners who have served alongside Americans for the past two decades. Our country owes a significant debt to these individuals who aided the U.S. military and diplomatic efforts as translators, drivers, and partners in the region. We must ensure their evacuation to safe harbor," the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent to the White House this week.

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"We are writing to urge the same assistance be extended to journalists and their partners in Afghanistan. These individuals have spent twenty years reporting stories that needed to be told, and in doing so, in many cases they have exposed themselves and their families to significant risk." 

The news comes after the Taliban made significant military gains in Afghanistan last week, taking over large cities as they closed in on Kabul. On Sunday, the insurgent group wrangled control of Kabul and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the nation. 

On Wednesday, he reportedly resurfaced in the United Arab Emirates. 

Since their takeover on Sunday, harrowing scenes from videos and photographs posted to social media and circulated through the media showed thousands of Afghans rushing to Kabul international airport to escape. 

The U.S. Embassy on in Afghanistan said Wednesday that "it cannot guarantee safe passage" to the Kabul airport amid efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens and partners. 

The bipartisan group said that journalists face "imminent danger" as the situation in the region continues to deteriorate. 

"Journalists and media support staff who assisted media organizations are in imminent danger as Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. These courageous individuals should receive safe passage to Hamid Karzai International Airport, and be transported to safety outside of the country if they request it, and be considered as priority applicants for P-2 designation," the letter continued.

"This safe passage should be offered to all individuals employed by media organizations, as well as Afghan journalists and support staff who have put themselves in grave danger for reporting on the Taliban and the ongoing conflict in the country," it said. 

Earlier this week, the publisher of The Washington Post wrote on behalf of his news organization as well as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal in an email to national security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanSullivan raised normalizing relations with Israel during meeting with Saudi crown prince: report Biden struggles to rein in Saudi Arabia amid human rights concerns Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — World leaders call for enhanced cooperation to fight wave of ransomware attacks MORE imploring the White House to oversee the safe removal of more than 200 journalists, support staff and their families from Afghanistan. 

"They are currently in danger and need the US government to get them to safety. Please advise as to how best to proceed," Post publisher Fred Ryan wrote. In a statement on Tuesday, the newspaper's Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said, "Many of out journalists, support staff and their families were able to safely leave Kabul."

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"There are still a great number of journalists who remain, and we are committed to supporting our colleagues as they work to get their staff to safety," Buzbee said. 

Schiff and Chabot told Biden in their letter that their offices and staffs have heard stories of journalists and those who aided their efforts being threatened by the Taliban and fearing for their safety.

"Our country is among the fiercest proponents of a free and fair press — believing that a robust media is necessary for sustaining strong democracies around the world," they wrote. "We cannot resign those individuals who acted to fulfill these beliefs to violence and death. We must see them to safe harbor." 

Later on Wednesday, Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump-backed bills on election audits, illegal voting penalties expected to die in Texas legislature The Memo: Conservatives change their tune on big government Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals MORE (R-Utah) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan MORE (D-Minn.) penned a letter of their own to Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenNuclear watchdog: US, Iran entering 'decisive' period on resuming talks Sullivan raised normalizing relations with Israel during meeting with Saudi crown prince: report Democrats call for State to lift ban on embassies discussing same-sex marriage MORE and Homeland Security chief Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasFederal officers detail abuse described by asylum seekers Senate Republicans raise concerns about TSA cyber directives for rail, aviation Ending worksite raids is a show; focus should be on employer compliance MORE asking that they "honor the United States’ commitment to the freedom of press," and ensure the safe return of American journalists.

"The Taliban have long targeted journalists, which continues today. Despite this risk, journalists have been on the front lines reporting on the conflict in Afghanistan for 20 years, keeping citizens informed and government leaders accountable. Those who contributed to a free and open press in Afghanistan will likely face retribution by the Taliban, and must be brought to safety," the senators said.

"Last week, suspected Taliban members reportedly targeted members of the press, including an Afghan radio station manager in Kabul and a journalist in Helmand province, who were killed and kidnapped respectively. This is in addition to attacks on other members of the press, including the Radio Azadi journalists, who have seen four of their journalists killed since 2016. It is of concern that if we do not act now, the Taliban will continue such attacks."

This story was updated at 6:13 p.m.