Friday, September 3, 2021

Voice Of America Staffers Stranded In Afghanistan

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, reports The Wall Street Journal.

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.

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.

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.

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