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2 Bipartisan Senators Demand That Biden Protect Afghan Journalists

Two bipartisan senators — Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Mitt Romney of Utah — want the Biden administration to step up their work protecting Afghan journalists in the wake of the U.S. exit from their country.

Klobuchar and Romney said that following the end of formal operations in Afghanistan, the Afghan journalists who assisted U.S. media personnel need urgent aid resettling and continuing their work.

The senators told Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in the letter that the journalists now face new, dire risksunder new Taliban rule.

"There are concerns that given their long history of attacks on journalists, the Taliban will eliminate a free and open media and continue to suppress, imprison, and violently target the press," Klobuchar and Romney wrote.

In all, the effort could target more than 200 journalists and support staff, the senators noted. Several groups, such as the Committee To Protect Journalists, have zeroed in on the concerns in the days leading up to and since the U.S. departure from Afghanistan.

The tumultuous U.S. exit from its 20-year war in Afghanistan has left a broad wave of bipartisan criticism from lawmakers worried about Americans and Afghan allies left behind. President Biden has remained firm in his defense and commitment of the plans to exit the country by Aug. 31, lauding the largest airlift in U.S. history with the evacuation of more than 120,000.

However, many say that fell woefully short considering about 100 to 200 Americans were left behind, along with a many Afghan allies who requested evacuations but remain now under new Taliban rule with uncertain futures.

Lawmakers last month called for safe evacuation of the journalists

The new letter from Klobuchar and Romney to Biden officials follows a request last month by the senators for the administration to ensure the safe evacuation of the journalists, their support staff and families. It coincided with other similar bipartisan requests from other members of Congress, such as Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Steve Chabot, R-Ohio., last month.

Klobuchar and Romney urged the administration to expand its partnerships with members of the media, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and other governments to support jobs for the Afghan journalists who can continue reporting "open and transparent news" on the country.

"Their knowledge of Afghanistan and the region is invaluable and their skills should be used to provide news not only to the people in Afghanistan but to inform those outside of the country about current events in Afghanistan," the senators wrote.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.