By Sam Tobin
13 Feb 2023
LONDON, Feb 13 (Reuters) – Eight Afghan journalists who worked for the BBC broadcaster won a legal challenge on Monday against Britain’s refusal to relocate them from Afghanistan, which they said put them at high risk of being killed by the Taliban rulers.
The journalists’ lawyers told London’s High Court in December that the government had “betrayed the debt of gratitude” owed to them by refusing to relocate them after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Representatives for the government had argued that none of the eight were eligible for relocation under its Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) programme.
David Blundell, a lawyer for the Ministry of Defence, said the Taliban’s perception that the BBC is a part of the British government was irrelevant.
But Judge Peter Lane said in a written ruling that the perception was “clearly relevant” to the risks the journalists faced.
The decision on whether to relocate the eight will now have to be taken again, which their lawyers said would have be done within three weeks.
The journalists were embedded with military personnel and worked on British government-funded projects, the lawyers said.
As part of their work, they spoke out against the Taliban and exposed corruption and abuse, resulting in numerous threats and attacks by Taliban fighters, the lawyers added.
Erin Alcock, who represented the journalists, said her clients have been “living in fear for over 18 months”.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said the department does not comment in detail on specific legal cases, but was considering potential next steps.