Free Press Unlimited enabled the evacuation of 24 Afghan media workers

Journalist in Afghanistan

Recently, 24 Afghan media workers, including journalists and fixers who have collaborated with Dutch media in the past, have been evacuated from Afghanistan. Family members were also involved in the evacuation, Free Press Unlimited's Jantine van Herwijnen and Leon Willems share in an update.

This concerns a total of 86 people. To what location these people have been taken to is not shared, partly for security reasons. But also because it is not always clear where these people are.

The media workers concerned have collaborated intensively with Dutch journalists and media in recent years. They would be in serious danger from the Taliban, the new rulers of the country.

"The collaboration with the [Dutch] ministry went very well. They took the list of names very seriously," says Van Herwijnen. "Dutch journalists have worked over night to help these media workers get through the various checkpoints. We then receive messages through our network when the people concerned have arrived safely. We do have a general overview."

Free Press Unlimited called on the Dutch government, together with the Dutch Association of Editors in Chief and the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ), to evacuate fifteen media workers from Afghanistan last Sunday.

'Some people do not proceed with evacuation'

After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received the list of fifteen names, more media workers in Afghanistan reported themselves to Free Press Unlimited. Some of these have also been evacuated.

"There are still people who are trying to get away. I hope to get an update on that soon," says Van Herwijnen.

"However, some have decided not to proceed with the evacuation and to stay behind. For example, one family has tried three times to reach the airport. Others have sick children or loved ones who cannot come. That is heartbreaking."

Evacuations must stop after August 31

In the meanwhile, the Taliban have said that the evacuations of non-Afghans should not continue after August 31, and that for Afghans it may be even sooner than that. Van Herwijnen is optimistic that people can still be taken from Afghanistan until then, but the situation in the country remains very uncertain. "We just don't know where some people are at the moment."

The situation of Afghan media workers with no connection to Dutch media is precarious. Also, money can still not be transferred to Afghanistan. "We are starting to see more and more clearly now what the dangers are for the journalists who are left behind," says Van Herwijnen.

"For example, a family member of a journalist from Deutsche Welle has been murdered. Manhunts for journalists and house searches are being carried out in other cities," says Leon Willems.

Despite the already successful evacuations, we find it difficult to be satisfied. "The feeling that we should have done more continues," said Willems. "You just can't be happy about it."

This article is a translation of a Dutch news article.

Free Press Unlimited also works on the safety of Afghan journalists who have no chance of evacuation. We try to bring them to safety in local safe houses. Read more about this here.

Update 26 August 2.40PM: at this moment, the number of evacuated media workers has been updated to 27, their families included, this adds up to a total of 96 people.

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