German media urge Merkel to rescue Afghan journalists

Major German media organizations on Sunday urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to create an emergency visa program to help local journalists flee Afghanistan as the Taliban took control of the country.

In an open letter to Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the news organizations, including Der Spiegel, the news agency dpa, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, said they feared for the lives of Afghan journalists who had served German readers and viewers for 20 years. They called on the senior officials to create an emergency immigration program mirroring one established for interpreters that had assisted the German military.

“This letter is a cry for help,” they wrote. “Our reporting, which provided the German public and politics with analysis, insights and impressions from the country, was inconceivable without the commitment and courage of the Afghan colleagues who supported us on site: the local journalists, stringers and translators.”

“The lives of these freelancers are now acutely at risk,” they continued, adding: “According to international human rights organizations, there is hardly a country in the world in which journalists are now as vulnerable as in Afghanistan. We hereby call on you to set up a visa emergency program for Afghan workers of German media companies.”

The letter noted that U.S. and U.K. media companies had made similar appeals to their governments in recent days, and that the Biden administration was including journalists in its refugee program for Afghanistan.

“Without these courageous Afghans, the German public and politicians would not have been able to be informed about the general conditions of the 20-year Bundeswehr mission,” the news organizations wrote.

The appeal to Merkel and Maas came as European nations, and the world, watched Taliban fighters sweep into Kabul on Sunday, and as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country for Tajikstan, marking the collapse of his government and dispelling any hope for international efforts to secure an orderly transition.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he had spoken on Sunday about the situation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and with the foreign ministers of Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands. “NATO is helping keep Kabul airport open to facilitate and coordinate evacuations,” Stoltenberg tweeted.

But Stoltenberg’s comments only underscored the utter powerlessness of the alliance following the decision last year by U.S. President Donald Trump to negotiate a so-called peace deal with the Taliban, in which he agreed to withdraw all foreign forces.

Many European allies were deeply skeptical of the drawdown, and Stoltenberg warned Trump against any hasty action, but they had virtually no input and were left waiting for months following President Joe Biden’s inauguration for a decision to override the advice of military commanders and continue with Trump’s pull-out initiative.

Johnson’s government on Sunday announced that the U.K. parliament would be recalled to debate the situation in Afghanistan on Wednesday. U.K. officials also faced criticism over their apparent reluctance to help Afghan refugees fleeing the country in response to the Taliban takeover.

Meanwhile, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating Council presidency, took a dig at the U.S. on Twitter, saying that Washington had not learned anything from the Soviet military failure in Afghanistan. He also retweeted an observation that a Taliban spokesman has a Twitter account while Trump’s account remains suspended.

“Everything you have to know to understand why Talibans are taking Afghanistan,” Janša wrote.



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