National Journalists Day: Examining the Challenges Faced by Exiled Journalists

On March 18th, Afghanistan recognizes the “National Day of Journalists”. The former Afghan republic regime not only deprived the country of freedom of speech, but also made life for journalists and those working in leading media so difficult that a large number of these “soldiers of freedom of expression” were forced to flee Afghanistan. Hundreds of journalists who left the country after the Taliban took power are now facing issues such as poverty, lack of employment, economic and security instability, and a lack of visas or legal residency. Some of these exiled journalists allege that the Taliban have not given up on them, even in neighboring countries, and have sent them threatening messages on social media. Due to the Taliban’s strong ties to and control over the two countries, the Afghan exiled journalists want to leave Pakistan and Iran as soon as possible, but fear that this could result in their imprisonment, assassination, or being forced to return to Afghanistan.

Abdullah Walizada, who had worked in Afghan media for seven years during the Republic regime, fled Afghanistan due to the possibility of arrest and interrogation by the Taliban. He sought refuge in Pakistan almost a year ago. In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, Walizada stated that the majority of Afghan journalists in the neighboring countries of Afghanistan (Pakistan and Iran) are struggling with poverty and unable to provide for their children’s health.

Journalists who have become part of our coordination groups are living in a desperate situation. Some have even gone so far as to sell their body parts in order to pay for medical care for their ill family members. The majority of journalists working in countries bordering Afghanistan, particularly Pakistan, are experiencing psychological issues.

Sher-Shah Rasooli, another journalist who has resided in Pakistan for months, spoke to Hasht-e-Subh and attributed the disregard of human rights organizations to the dire mental and emotional conditions Afghan journalists are facing. He further stated, “Regrettably, the organizations and countries that used to provide assistance to journalists have neglected them for a prolonged period, thus leaving us in a state of utter distress.”

The Taliban’s Threats and Refusal to Extend Visas

Journalists in Iran and Pakistan have faced numerous issues, including security risks and the potential for immigrants from those countries to be forcibly repatriated. Additionally, media workers and journalists who have published negative articles about the Taliban have reported being threatened. Additionally, media workers and journalists who have published negative articles about the Taliban have reported being threatened.

Abdullah Walizada stated that he has been subjected to numerous threats from the Taliban due to his current employment at a media outlet that is critical of the Taliban. The Taliban sent him a message indicating that he is propagating false information against the Taliban and that they will take him back to Afghanistan for interrogation. Additionally, other journalists based in Iran and Pakistan have reportedly received similar messages.

Hossain Ahmadi, another journalist who fled to Iran with his wife when the Taliban arrived, has been attempting to gain asylum in France, yet his case has not been given any consideration thus far. “I have been in Iran for approximately one year. Despite my best efforts, I have been unable to renew my visa, and now I am in danger of being deported as my visa must be renewed. I am concerned about how I will survive in this country for the next ten months, as they will not renew my visa in any way. There are also other journalists like myself for whom the embassies have scheduled meetings, but these are not taking place in the near future.”

Furthermore, Afghan journalists are feeling ill at ease. Exiled journalists have reported that international institutions and countries have not taken the necessary measures to guarantee freedom of expression in Afghanistan.

Ahmad Nawid Kawish informed Hasht-e-Subh that human rights organizations have not exerted sufficient pressure on the Taliban to make them recognize freedom of speech in Afghanistan, nor have they provided any support to Afghan journalists.

Under the Taliban’s rule, freedom of speech and the media have been subjected to tremendous persecution and restrictions. Many journalists and media workers have fled the country and sought refuge in neighboring countries, such as Pakistan and Iran, due to their fear of the Taliban. The Taliban impede free information, strictly regulate, and limit the media environment by torturing, attacking, and apprehending journalists throughout the country. According to verified figures, there are currently at least 300 journalists living in Pakistan and approximately 80 in Iran.