Now is not the time for red tape: Canada’s federal government must ‘finish the job’ and assist Afghan journalists

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Afghan protesters shout anti-Taliban and government slogans during a demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan protesters shout anti-Taliban and government slogans during a demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) continue to press the federal government to cut unnecessary ‘red tape’ and uphold its obligation to support Afghan journalists, and support workers, who risked their personal safety to help Canadian reporters bear witness and report safely during the nearly two decade-long conflict.

On August 20 , the CAJ and CJFE, with the support of dozens of news organizations and other press freedom groups, first called on the federal government to provide safe passage to Afghan journalists who have helped Canadians. Over the past two weeks, members of our coalition have been communicating around the clock with government officials across multiple departments and Afghan journalists with connections to Canada. We have been providing these departments with updated lists that contain the names, locations, and contact details of Afghan journalists who have admirably served Canadians.

We are encouraged to report that several journalists, and their families, have safely left Afghanistan for safety in other countries. This past Friday, for example, we also learned that a flight containing several Afghan journalists with Canadian connections touched down at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Last week, the Globe and Mail also published a powerful story about how Ukrainian troops rescued Canada-bound Afghans in a daring operation.

Since the joint statement two weeks ago, other organizations have stepped up to assist Afghan journalists with support once they arrive in Canada. Late last week, News Media Canada, the newspaper and digital news media trade association, announced the creation of a new initiative that will allow for employment opportunities with member titles in the coming weeks and months.

While we are heartened by these periodic positive developments, we remain concerned by several troubling realities. First, we are aware that several Afghan journalists with connections to Canada remain stranded in the country now under Taliban control. We hope that plans to ensure the rescue of these individuals will continue to be at the top of the federal government’s agenda. We have also received various reports of these journalists being visited by the Taliban and we continue to monitor their safety and security.

Second, we are aware that many journalists with ties to Canada remain in precarious diplomatic situations whilst in other countries. We have heard regular reports, for example, about the lack of communication from Canada’s federal government in providing immigration case files or other documentation. While we respect that processing this number of immigration applications quickly is a daunting task for civil service personnel, we implore the federal government to streamline its process for this group of refugees.

In addition to working towards the safe resettlement of journalists with Canadian connections, the CAJ and CJFE also acknowledge and support the critical humanitarian work being done to rescue other Afghan journalists. These tireless efforts are being led by organizations, such as Journalists for Human Rights, the Coalition for Women in Journalism, Unifor, CWA-Canada, and many more. Together, we recognize that any safe resettlement processes will not be a sprint, but rather, a marathon. We hope the federal government recognizes this job is far from finished and will remain faithful to its short and long-term commitments.

SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists