In Just 90 Minutes, Hope for NYT Journos in Afghanistan

The paper details the rapid help it got from Mexico
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2021 11:15 AM CDT
In Just 90 Minutes, Hope for NYT Journos in Afghanistan
Afghan journalist refugees stand during a welcoming ceremony by Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard upon arrival to Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City on Wednesday as part of evacuations from Afghanistan for people fleeing the Taliban takeover as the US pulls out.   (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

The New York Times on Wednesday reported that it managed to safely get a group of Afghans who worked for the paper and their relatives—24 families in all—out of Afghanistan in a "harrowing escape" that wasn't aided by the US government. Rather, the credit goes to Mexico. As Ben Smith reports, Mexican officials managed to do what US officials couldn't: "cut through the red tape of their immigration system" to rapidly secure the documents needed to fly the group from Kabul to Doha, Qatar.

And it happened in "arbitrary, personal, and tenuous" fashion, he writes, with a former chief of the Times' Kabul and Mexico bureaus who's on book leave messaging Mexico's foreign minister on WhatsApp asking if Mexico could take in the Times' people. The quick answer was no. But Marcelo Ebrard then said there might be a way to avoid "hours and hours" of process and a Cabinet meeting: He called President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The WhatsApp message was sent at 5pm on Aug. 12; 90 minutes later, Ebrard confirmed Mexico could make it happen.

Smith reports Mexico subsequently made the same offer to the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post; the Journal confirmed it would move those it evacuated to Qatar and Ukraine on to Mexico. The AP reports Mexico confirmed on Wednesday it had in the predawn hours welcomed a group of 124 Afghan media workers and their families to Mexico City via a Qatar Emiri Air Force flight.

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They were described as having worked for "various media outlets," and the Times confirms its people were among the group. A side note from the AP: "The offer of safe haven to Afghan journalists is a sharp contrast in a country that is unable to protect its own reporters. Press groups say nine journalists were killed in Mexico in 2020, making it the most dangerous country for reporters outside of war zones, and at least five have been killed so far in 2021." (More Mexico stories.)

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