Voice of America, Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe Journalists Left Behind in Afghanistan

From a Wall Street Journal story by William Mauldin headlined “Afghanistan Voice of America, Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe Staff Left Behind”:

Lawmakers and media organizations are calling on the Biden administration to help get more than 100 government-funded media employees out of Afghanistan, where they risk retribution from the Taliban for their affiliation with the U.S. government.

Combined with their family members, the number of workers for Voice of America and the Afghan branch of Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe left behind totals more than 500….The media staffers, who aren’t U.S. citizens, are contractors, unlike their colleagues in the U.S., who work directly for the U.S. government.

“We were working on their safe evacuation just as the attack struck the airport perimeter,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “Unfortunately, it stood in the way of our ability to bring these individuals to safety before Aug. 31. But I am telling you, we have told them that we have a commitment to these individuals.”

Voice of America and Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe operate under the U.S. Agency for Global Media, an independent agency of the U.S. government. The two media outlets and others run by the agency are charged with providing “unbiased news and information in countries where the press is restricted.” Though funded by U.S. taxpayers, the outlets are designed to operate free from editorial interference from the government, rather than as a tool of U.S. public diplomacy….

Dozens of lawmakers from both parties last month called on Mr. Biden to help the U.S.-affiliated journalists get out, saying they “have been and will continue to be a target for the Taliban due to their association with the United States government.”

“We are incredibly disappointed that our efforts over the past few weeks to get our colleagues safe passage out of Afghanistan have been unsuccessful,” said Yolanda Lopez, acting director of Voice of America, adding that “we have been working day and night, pursuing every available option, only to hit countless obstacles and roadblocks.”

Hundreds of journalists hired by U.S.-based news organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post, managed to get out of Afghanistan, thanks to help from their media organizations and U.S. officials. But many local journalists working for Afghan publications, including reporters who have faced threats, have been unable to leave, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which has documented recent cases of the Taliban attacking reporters.

William Mauldin is a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, writing about foreign policy and the State Department. He covered international trade out of the Washington bureau and before that was posted in Moscow for over five years.

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