Afghan journalists granted right to review in UK legal challenge

  • 14 Feb 2023

NUJ welcomes decision allowing former BBC journalists in Afghanistan to have their cases considered under government’s relocation scheme.

The National Union of Journalists has welcomed the decision by a UK court to allow eight journalists who worked for the BBC in Afghanistan, the right to have their cases for relocation reconsidered.

The journalists worked for the BBC World Service prior to the Taliban gaining control in August 2021 and had their cases for relocation to the UK refused. In December, their legal counsel argued government’s decision to reject applications without reason under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) was unlawful. Reasons later provided outlined that the BBC did not form part of government, meaning visas would not be granted.

In his judgment this month, Mr Justice Lane referenced terms of the relocation policy scheme. These included:

(i) condition 1 is that at any time on or after 1 October 2001, the person:

(a) was directly employed in Afghanistan by a UK government department; or

(b) provided goods or services in Afghanistan under contract to a UK government department (whether as, or on behalf of a party to the contract); or

(c) worked in Afghanistan alongside a UK government department, in partnership with or closely supporting and assisting that department;

He said:

“The articulated rationale appears to be that, since the BBC is independent of HMG a person working for the BBC can never, in that capacity, be said to be working alongside etc a UK government department. For the reasons I have earlier given, that is wrong.”

The journalists will now have their cases considered within 21 days by the Arap team.

The NUJ has repeatedly called on the UK and Irish governments to support journalists and media workers fleeing Afghanistan. As several journalists remain in hiding in the country in fear of their lives under oppressive Taliban regime, governments must act with urgency to ensure journalists’ safety.

The International Federation of Journalists is accepting donations to its safety fund to support Afghan journalists and NUJ members are encouraged to donate.

Access the judgment.

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