RSF mobilises support for more than 170 Afghan journalists who fled to Pakistan

Together with its local partner, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has been helping more than 170 Afghan journalists who fled to Pakistan, providing financial and administrative assistance and organising networking workshops. While a conference is being held in Islamabad on 29 April, RSF urges the Pakistani authorities and international community to help protect Afghan journalists in Pakistan.

The “Advocacy platform for Afghan journalists” project launched in December 2023 by RSF and its local partner, the Islamabad-based Freedom Network, has so far helped 173 Afghan journalists who fled persecution in their own country only to encounter many administrative, financial and professional difficulties in the country where they sought refuge. 

To help address these problems, RSF has supported Freedom Network in providing administrative, financial and advocacy assistance. As part of the project, Freedom Network is organising a conference in Islamabad on 29 April to draw the attention of political decision-makers and the international community to the plight of these journalists, with a view to finding short and long-term political solutions to the challenges they face.

This initiative is supported by RSF and is funded by the European Union’s ProtectDefenders programme.

"When the RSF project was launched in November 2023, I saw the despair on the faces of many Afghan journalists. For me, it was important to get them out of that situation and give them a new perspective. Today, I see hope in them as the project draws to a close. A solid foundation has been laid to support them, especially the women, and this would not have been possible without the RSF project. Freedom Network, RSF's partner in Pakistan, will continue to support these refugee journalists from Afghanistan.

Iqbal Khattak
Freedom Network executive director and RSF representative in Pakistan

Humanitarian assistance was also provided to 59 Afghan journalists under the project, including women journalists who were particularly affected in exile. Four orientation workshops were organised to help the journalists familiarise themselves with local conditions. Pakistani journalists' unions and press clubs were also mobilised to support their colleagues in exile.

Participants in the RSF/Freedom Network project, which is due end at the end of April, have also pleaded the cause of the exile journalists with local and international bodies. A solidarity network called the “Pak-Afghan Journalists Solidarity Network (PAJSN)” was set up at the beginning of 2024 to involve the Pakistani government, diplomatic missions in Islamabad and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  

Representatives of the Afghan journalists were able to meet UNHCR officials, diplomats from EU member countries and the National Human Rights Commission (NCHR). 

“It is necessary and urgent for stakeholders to join forces to address the many problems that Afghan journalists face in Pakistan. We urge them to hear our call and to respond. Afghan journalists who have fled to Pakistan deserve to live in decent conditions and should have the possibility to become residents and to use their professional journalistic skills, or to be allowed and supported in their departure to a host country.

Antoine Bernard
RSF director of advocacy and assistance

More than 170 Afghan journalists are still refugees in Pakistan after fleeing their country, which has been under Taliban control since August 2021. Most of them hope to obtain a visa for a third country but are not sure whether they will ever succeed.

They are having great difficulty renewing their Pakistani visas, and some have been the victims of police harassment. Often deprived of a legal status enabling them to lead a normal life, they live in a state of permanent anxiety. They also have no access to healthcare at public hospitals or to public schools for their children. Their careers have been cut short and their financial resources are running out.

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