Meltzner: We need to stop taking journalists for granted

JD Meltzner

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

(Photo illustration by Devin Cornelius)

The ongoing Taliban takeover of Afghanistan impacts many different groups and parties, one of which is Afghan journalists working for American-funded news organizations. After being promised aid and evacuation by America by the Aug. 31 troops withdrawal deadline, many of these journalists have seen no such help from the United States government.

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It is important to recognize and understand this situation not just as citizens of a country directly denying aid to those it promised to protect but also as students who are often utilizing reports and articles by journalists both for our studies and to stay informed on world events.

News organizations and national governments can praise the bravery and sacrifice of these journalists all they want, but it is merely a hollow gesture as long as these people are trapped in a hostile country.”

These journalists are stranded as a result of inaction by the U.S. government. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Committee to Protect Journalists compiled a list of Afghan journalists that “faced imminent threat from the Taliban and were in urgent need of support for relocation.” Federal organizations, like the United States National Security Council, assured these journalists that this list would be used to help expedite visa applications and relocation efforts, but instead, they received help from the U.S. in only a few cases.

Also, the American visa program that was modified to make all Afghan journalists employed by American media organizations eligible for resettlement still does not consider Afghan journalists employed domestically to be eligible for the resettlement program

It is easy for us, as Americans living in a country with freedoms and safety, to look at this as a diplomatic problem that should be handled by policymakers and politicians, but take a minute to try to comprehend the reality that these journalists stranded in Afghanistan are facing. 

Historically, the Taliban has been violent toward journalists. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a news organization that has members trapped in Afghanistan, has had four members killed since 2016. These journalists were running for their lives in the weeks of chaos following the Taliban takeover, forced to go from safe house to safe house while the Pulitzer Prize Board honored them for their courage from a safe distance.

We often don’t consider the risks taken by journalists every day just to bring us accurate and unbiased information.”

This hypocrisy is the true problem at hand. News organizations and national governments can praise the bravery and sacrifice of these journalists all they want, but it is merely a hollow gesture as long as these people are trapped in a hostile country. 

This is something that we as students need to understand about our privileges of security and free information.

We live in a country where we don’t have to truly confront the realities of some of the news we consume. The fact that we have free media unrestricted by government ownership is important to keep in mind.

Because of these freedoms, we often don’t consider the risks taken by journalists every day just to bring us accurate and unbiased information. These journalists risk their lives so that we can stay informed and use that knowledge to make informed decisions, specifically in terms of policies and government actions. 

Is it fair that the very people who help inform us on all of the topics and events we need to be informed on are also suffering for their efforts? It is an egregious abuse of the power we have as a country. We need to acknowledge and act on the fact that we cannot protect the people who keep us globally informed.

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As students and members of this young generation, we pride ourselves on being aware of injustices and fighting against them. We must take steps in any way we can to support overseas journalists. These steps can be direct, through donating to organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists, or they can include staying as informed and vocal on the issue as possible.

We must acknowledge that freedom of the press is something we take for granted and change that way of thinking. The journalists we rely on to inform our political opinions and decisions are suffering because of the complacency of those they serve.

JD Meltzner can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @jd_meltzner.