Updated: September 07, 2021 09:03 AM GMT
Journalists light candles in memory of Reuters photographer Danish Siddiqui, who was killed in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, during a memorial at the Press Club of India in New Delhi on July 17. (Photo: AFP)
Sri Lankan media organizations have urged the government to provide relief to Afghan journalists seeking asylum in the island nation.
Free Media Movement convener Seetha Ranjanee said journalists in Afghanistan “are in grave danger and their lives are at risk at the hands of the Taliban regime.”
In a statement issued on Sept. 6, Ranjanee said some countries have provided them asylum as a commitment to democracy. “Several media professionals, including women journalists, who could end up as victims of barbarism and may have to pay with their lives, are preparing to leave the country in search of safety,” she added.
The statement was also signed by the Federation of Media Trade Unions, Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, Tamil Media Alliance and Sri Lanka Young Journalists’ Association.
Duminda Sampath, president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (SWJA), hoped the government of Sri Lanka will respond positively while offering all cooperation from media organizations of the country.
“This is also a great opportunity to demonstrate South Asian regional cooperation and to show the world community that our country is committed to human rights and the safety of refugees,” Sampath said.
We urge the government to provide emergency visas for human rights defenders, journalists and others who have well-founded fears of persecution
The situation for media workers on the ground in Afghanistan is reportedly extremely challenging. Hundreds of journalists and their families are desperate and without passports, visas or funds to survive, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
International media organizations have reportedly received more than 2,000 requests for assistance from media workers attempting to flee the country.
The IFJ and South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) have urged the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to provide a safe haven to Afghan journalists seeking help by providing them emergency visas and asylum.
“We urge the government to provide emergency visas for human rights defenders, journalists and others who have well-founded fears of persecution and to instruct the department of immigration not to deport any asylum seekers arriving in the country,” the National Peace Council (NPC) said in a press statement on Aug. 18.
Sri Lanka has signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to aid and protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. It is committed to assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement.
A prominent Christian human rights defender in Colombo has offered support to the Sri Lankan government to fulfill its moral and legal obligation to welcome the Afghans facing risks to their lives.
“Many countries in Europe and Asia had welcomed Sri Lankans during the civil war and other conflicts [in the past],” he said on condition of anonymity while calling for reciprocal support to those in a similar situation now.
Some 1,300 foreign refugees, including 170 Afghans, have sought asylum and are staying temporarily in the island nation.