Over 200 Afghan journalists in Pakistan face deportation, RSF raises concerns

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has raised grave concerns over the fate of more than 200 Afghan journalists facing deportation from Pakistan as a result of the Pakistani government’s deadline for the expulsion of undocumented migrants.

The potential deportation of these Afghan journalists poses a severe threat to their lives, RSF warned in a statement on Friday, Nov. 3, urging Pakistani authorities to permit them to remain in Pakistan and ensure their safety.

According to RSF, the looming threat of deportation has left approximately 200 Afghan journalists residing in Pakistan in a state of profound distress. RSF conducted interviews with several of these individuals, who reported an alarming surge in violence against them since the government issued the deportation ultimatum. They have faced harassment, extortion by Pakistani law enforcement, arbitrary arrests, pressure on landlords to evict Afghan tenants, and endless visa application procedures, now compounded by the looming threat of returning to Afghanistan.

“Forcefully repatriating Afghan journalists who sought refuge in Pakistan would constitute a blatant violation of international law and is entirely unacceptable. Many of these journalists, some of whom reported on sensitive matters, have been subjected to threats and sought sanctuary in Pakistan to safeguard their lives. Deporting them back to Afghanistan would unquestionably expose them to grave danger. We call on the Pakistani government to refrain from arresting any of them and to ensure their protection and security in Pakistan,” RSF asserted.

An Afghan journalist who sought refuge in Pakistan in September 2022, requested anonymity for security reasons, and disclosed, “A forced return to Afghanistan would be tantamount to sending us to the slaughterhouse.” He was previously a fixer for several foreign media outlets and fled due to threats from Taliban authorities because of his work for a foreign TV channel.

Another anonymous journalist, who fled to Pakistan in July 2022, stated that he had to escape his home country after reporting on Taliban violence, particularly against women. He had received a last-minute warning that an armed group linked to the Taliban government intended to assassinate him. “I had to leave my country to stay alive,” he declared. “After I left, the regime detained several of my family members. Returning there would jeopardize my life.”

A third journalist shared his ordeal, detailing how he was arrested and tortured twice in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021. He revealed, “In January 2022, my former torturers located my new residence and inflicted severe injuries on my head and neck.” After hiding for several weeks, he managed to escape to Pakistan in March 2022 but now lives in fear, saying, “If the Pakistani police deport me, my life will be in great danger.”

Yet another journalist, who relocated to Pakistan in June 2022 after facing threats and multiple arrests in northern Afghanistan due to his work with a foreign TV channel, expressed his mounting distress. He reported being subjected to increased harassment from Pakistani intelligence officials a year after his arrival, involving a five-hour detention and scrutiny of his phone and emails. He now finds daily life increasingly unbearable, with his family and children living in fear, and the owner of their residence pressuring them to leave.

“I implore the countries known for accepting refugees to extend their assistance to us in imminent danger. I implore them to take action and rescue us. In my homeland, the risk of being killed is very real. There is only a short window of time before the actual expulsion of undocumented Afghans commences,” he emphasized.