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Hundreds Of Afghan Journalists Have Fled To Europe


Refugees float as they hold a tube after a dinghy carrying Syrian and Afghan refugees deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos, September 2015.

Mujahid Sangaryar, an Afghan radio journalist, paid a fortune to human smugglers to undertake the dangerous journey from Afghanistan to Germany last year.

Still facing an uncertain future in Germany, Sangaryar is sure about one thing: He is safe now.

Sangaryar says his life's hardest decision was to leave his five children behind with relatives in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar. His choices were stark, he says, after he began receive threatening anonymous calls. The callers asked him to stop reporting on corruption in the country's mining industry for a local radio station in Nangarhar.

"I had to leave or take the risk of being killed," he says. "I told them if I was going to stay silent over such crimes, I would not have chosen journalism."

Sangaryar says Afghan journalists face threats from both the insurgents and strongmen within the government.

"It is not only the Taliban militants that continually target journalists. In most cases government officials, part of the country's massive mafia, pose an equally dangerous threat to journalists and media workers."

According to NAI, a media support organization in Afghanistan, Sangaryar was among the estimated 250 media workers who joined more than 1 million Afghan and Syrian refugees seeking a safe future in Europe.

NAI estimates at least 10 percent of the journalists were women. The organization says the actual number of journalists who have fled Afghanistan could be higher because of limited information about individuals who take often secret and dangerous journeys from Afghanistan into Europe through Iran and Turkey.

Hundreds have died while attempting to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece in small and overcrowded dinghies.

With hundreds of television channels, radio stations, newspapers, and magazines, the Afghan press has thrived since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001. But insurgent violence, threats, and intimidation from pro-government strongmen now cast a dark shadow over its future.

Zakia Ghyasi, a young Afghan journalist and TV presenter, is not sure about returning to her country after living and studying in Belgium for more than two years.

"Journalists and media workers are increasingly becoming victims of suicide bombings, target killings, and violence, so they have to run for their lives and those of their loved ones," she said. "Poor or no security, sexual harassment, and domestic violence are some of the main challenges for Afghan reporters and journalists, especially women."

Global media watchdog Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) also sees a rising number of Afghan journalists fleeing the country.

"We don't have specific numbers of people who have left, but there is certainly an increase in the number of cases we're dealing with," says Robert Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

Dietz says international media support groups are meeting soon to discuss the issue.

"Our aim is to get journalists out of danger within Afghanistan, and only as a last resort get them to a temporary safe haven outside the country," he said. "There don't seem to be many good solutions on the horizon."

In Germany, Afghanistan is still on Sangaryar's mind. "It is extremely sad that educated Afghans like me have to leave the country," he said. "What will happen if we all escape?"

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