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14 former staff accuse BBC of ignoring pleas for assistance as press violations rise in Afghanistan

A general view outside the BBC Studios on 27 May 2021 in England [Nathan Stirk/Getty Images]
A general view outside the BBC Studios on 27 May 2021 in England [Nathan Stirk/Getty Images]

Fourteen senior Afghan presenters, reporters and producers working for the BBC in Afghanistan have had their pleas for assistance ignored by the corporation and the UK embassy in Kabul.

The Guardian reports that the BBC has said it is helping 171 staff and their families but cannot help the former workers or BBC staffs' extended family due to limited capacity.

One of the former staff members interviewed senior Taliban members and another presented an embassy-backed BBC talk show.

One of them has been accused by the Taliban of working for the British government and supporting "the infidel invasion" of Afghanistan.

"Unfortunately, we have been abandoned by the BBC," he said. "I am under threat, me and my family. The BBC have a moral responsibility to us, we are in danger because we worked for the BBC."

The 14 former staff members have also called on the government to save their lives.

At the beginning of August, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) called on the government to provide assistance for media workers in Afghanistan who had been threatened by the Taliban.

READ: UK says may conduct fresh airstrikes in Afghanistan

The union, along with several newspapers, broadcasters and media organisations, signed a letter to the prime minister and foreign secretary highlighting that news reporting in the UK has been heavily reliant on Afghan journalists, translators and other support staff. "The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating quickly and it is time for the authorities here to step up and offer support and assistance to those who are threatened."

"If left behind, those Afghan journalists and media employees who have played such a vital role informing the British public by working for British media will be left at risk of persecution, of physical harm, incarceration, torture or death."

At least 11 Afghan journalists were killed in 2020, according to Human Rights Watch. Two journalists were killed in less than a week, including Radio Free Afghanistan's Elyas Dayee, and Yama Siawash, who died after bombs were attached to their vehicles.

Five journalists have been killed this year including four women. In July, Reuters correspondent Danish Siddiqui was killed by the Taliban and his body mutilated as he covered an outbreak of violence between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters.

Attacks, threats and censorship of journalists have increased since the withdrawal of troops, according to the International Federation of Journalists.

The Index on Censorship has been told that the Taliban are visiting the homes of journalists to find out "who worked with infidels."

The Committee to Protect Journalists said last week that it had registered nearly 400 journalists in need of evacuation whilst thousands more requests remain to be reviewed. The CPJ has documented that the Taliban has carried out multiple attacks on journalists.

READ: EU says it will not rush into recognising the Taliban

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