Politics

New York Times, Washington Post, WSJ ask Biden to help evacuate Afghan colleagues of journalists

Key Points
  • The publishers of three major U.S. newspapers asked President Joe Biden on Monday to help Afghan colleagues of their journalists evacuate Afghanistan.
  • The requests from The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal came after they pleaded with the White House to move to safety more than 200 journalists and related people affiliated with the papers who are "in danger" at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
  • Thousands of Afghans swarmed the airport tarmac after the Taliban captured the capital Kabul.

In this article

Men try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021.
Stringer | Reuters

The publishers of three major U.S. newspapers asked President Joe Biden on Monday to help Afghan colleagues of their journalists evacuate Afghanistan.

The requests from The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal came after they pleaded with the White House to move to safety more than 200 journalists and related people affiliated with the papers who are "in danger" at the Kabul airport.

VIDEO2:4702:47
Chaos in Kabul, Afghanistan, ensues as the Taliban takes control

Post Publisher Fred Ryan asked national security advisor Jake Sullivan in an "urgent request" email to have them moved from the civilian side of Hamid Karzai International Airport "to the military side where they can be safe as they await evacuation flights."

"They are currently in danger and need the US government to get them to safety," Ryan wrote in the email, which he said he was writing on behalf of the three newspapers.

Afghan people sit as they wait to leave the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule.
Wakil Kohsar | AFP | Getty Images

Ryan wrote that there are 204 journalists, support staff and family members from the three newspapers who are stuck on the civilian side of the airport.

Later Monday, Ryan, Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger and Journal Publisher Almar Latour sent Biden a joint letter urging him to help get Afghan colleagues associated with the papers out of the country.

"For the past twenty years, brave Afghan colleagues have worked tirelessly to help The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal share news and information from the region with the global public," the letter said.

"Now, those colleagues and their families are trapped in Kabul, their lives in peril."

"As employers, we are looking for support for our colleagues and as journalists we’re looking for an unequivocal signal that the government will stand behind the free press," the publishers wrote. "In that light, we ask the American government to move urgently and take three concrete steps necessary to protect their safety."

The letter specifically asked Biden to give the Afghan colleagues "facilitated and protected access to the US-controlled airport;" "safe passage through a protected access gate to the airport;" and "facilitated air movement out of the country."

Thousands of Afghans swarmed the tarmac of the airport Monday after the Taliban captured the capital, Kabul.

Kamal Alam, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and senior adviser to the Massoud Foundation, told CNBC, "No one can really leave."

"If you don't have a visa or passport, you're not going," said Alam, who is stuck in Afghanistan.

Newly empowered Taliban militants have informed the U.S. that they are prepared to provide safe passage for civilians attempting to flee Afghanistan through Kabul's airport, the White House said Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday released the following statement: "We appreciate the efforts of the US government to reopen Hamid Karzai International Airport. While some journalists have been able to leave, the situation on the ground remains extremely perilous. We continue to request immediate assistance in facilitating safe transport for remaining Afghan colleagues from our own and other organizations into the airport, where access continues to be limited by Taliban checkpoints."

— CNBC's Natasha Turak contributed to this report.