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VOA, RFE/RL staff left behind in Afghanistan

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

Lawmakers, media groups call on Biden administration to help evacuate journalists at risk of Taliban retribution

A Taliban fighter at the airport in Kabul on Tuesday.
Photo: wakil kohsar/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Sept. 2, 2021 3:58 pm ET

WASHINGTON—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, according to lawmakers who have asked President Biden to ensure that they get out of the country safely. 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 Thursday. “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.

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said only 50 personnel hired by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees VOA and RFE/RL, were evacuated from Afghanistan, and those were due to the efforts of U.S. allies rather than Washington. About 140 reporters, editorial assistants and other workers remain, plus their families, a congressional aide said.

“It is absolutely disgraceful that the U.S. State Department claimed they evacuated their local employees when in reality they abandoned hundreds of USAGM journalists and their families,” Mr. McCaul said. “Some of these journalists were given express assurances by the Biden administration that they would be treated as locally employed staff—but were not.”

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.”

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan more rapidly than intelligence officials expected. Here’s a look at the nine days that sealed the group’s yearslong takeover. Illustration: Laura Kammermann

“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.
(via David Cole, LA)

{This concerns three different unnamed “stations“ — Radio Mashaal, VOA Ashna Radio, and VOA Deewa Radio, all in Pashto and/or Dari, each with a slightly different target audience, as on page 505 of WRTH 2021. The first two share(d) time on MW 1296, 621, presumably no longer available, and many SW frequencies from outside, still? — gh}

Also a 2-minute story on today`s NPR Morning Edition:
https://www.npr.org/2021/09/03/1033910786/u-s-funded-journalists-in-afghanistan-fear-for-their-lives

(wsj.com via WOR io group)

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