MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexico received 124 media workers and their family members from Afghanistan, including New York Times journalists, the government said on Wednesday, as people flee after the Taliban militant group’s takeover.
They arrived at Mexico City’s international airport early on Wednesday morning, where Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard waited to greet them.
“Mexico has decided to support human rights applications for refuge, asylum and humanitarian visas for people in Afghanistan who have asked to have this humanitarian condition,” Ebrard said.
Ebrard helped to arrange the journalists’ departure from Kabul, which included a stopover in Qatar, before their eventual arrival in Mexico, according to the New York Times.
Mexico was able to “cut through the red tape” to take in the media workers, unlike the United States, the Times said.
A former Kabul and Mexico bureau chief for the Times who maintained a cordial relationship with Ebrard made the request that Mexico receive the refugees, the Times said. Other journalists from the Wall Street Journal in Afghanistan could arrive later in Mexico, the Times added.
The Mexican government touted the operation as an example of its commitment to freedom of expression, despite its past ridicule of coverage by local and international media including the New York Times.
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last week as the United States and its allies withdrew troops after two decades and the Western-backed Afghan government and military collapsed.
The Taliban follow an ultra-hardline version of Sunni Islam. When in power from 1996-2001, guided by its interpretation of Islamic law, the Taliban banned television and it censored news. It has become more media-savvy since, using social media and promising to allow a free press.
Taliban fighters, however, have raided homes of journalists’ relatives and killed one family member of a reporter working for Deutsche Welle, the German public broadcaster said. In July, Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui was killed https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/afghanistan-conflict-reuters-siddiqui in Afghanistan after getting stuck in a Taliban-controlled area.
Reuters evacuated a group of 73 people made up of its workers and their families to Pakistan from Afghanistan on Monday.
Afghanistan and Mexico are considered among the most dangerous countries for journalists. At least 141 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, according to non-profit data. Journalists are often targeted for reporting on criminal gangs or corrupt officials.
On Tuesday, five members of Afghanistan’s all-girls robotics team https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-conflict-robotics/afghan-all-girl-robotics-team-members-land-in-mexico-idUSKBN2FQ033 arrived in Mexico.
(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel and Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Will Dunham)