LONDON, Dec 15 (Reuters) – Eight Afghan journalists who worked for the BBC and other British media organisations are challenging the British government’s refusal to relocate them, arguing that they are at high risk of being killed by Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers.
The journalists “worked alongside and in support of the British government’s mission” in Afghanistan and put their lives at risk, their lawyers told London’s High Court on Thursday.
Adam Straw said the British government has “betrayed the debt of gratitude” owed to his clients by refusing to relocate them or allow them to enter the country after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021. None of the eight are in Britain, the court heard.
He added in written arguments that the Ministry of Defence’s decision that the journalists were not eligible under the government’s Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) programme was unlawful.
The journalists “were activists against the Taliban and participated in [government] media freedom campaigns, notwithstanding that they worked for independent bodies,” Straw said.
The government’s lawyer David Blundell said in court documents that the BBC had written to the government on behalf of around 170 members of its staff to ask for help in leaving Afghanistan, but did not identify any of the eight journalists.
He added that all the eight journalists’ applications under the ARAP programme were refused because they were not eligible for relocation under the policy.
Blundell also said the government was right to conclude the journalists had not “worked alongside, in partnership with, or closely supporting a government department” because the BBC is independent of the government.
British troops were involved in Afghanistan from the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that overthrew the Taliban until August 2021, when the hardline Islamist group swept back into the capital, forcing a hurried evacuation which saw more than 120,000 people airlifted from Kabul but many others left behind.