Hit & Run author 'desperately' worried for Afghan journalist

August 16, 2021

Hit & Run author 'desperately' worried for Afghan journalist

Investigative journalist Nicky Hager. Photo: Grace Dobson Phillips

Investigative journalist Nicky Hager says he is worried “desperately, day and night” about the situation of an Afghan journalist involved in New Zealand’s inquiry into Operation Burnham.

This comes after 28 journalists from six New Zealand media organisations signed a letter calling for Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi to help Khalil Rahman Omaid and his family to leave Afghanistan, as the Taliban seized control of the country this week.

Omaid interviewed villagers and gathered information for the New Zealand inquiry into the October 2010 raid, after Special Air Service (NZSAS) soldiers were alleged to have committed war crimes against Afghan civilians in the northern Baghlan Province.

“Unfortunately, journalists are one of the special targets of the Taliban,” said the letter to Mr Faafoi.

“Omaid, his wife and his two small children are in peril.

“It is, as the world can see, desperately urgent.”

Omaid told Stuff that his work in the inquiry was dangerous, and he had been moving his family to different locations in the capital, Kabul, as he had received threats from a Taliban commander in recent weeks.

Nicky Hager, who co-authored the book Hit & Run about Operation Burnham, told Te Waha Nui that Omaid is the only New Zealand-linked journalist he knows of that needs evacuation, and the US, UK, and Canada are already airlifting journalists as a priority group out of Afghanistan.

He said he was unsure about the future faced by Omaid and his family if they could not be flown out of Kabul and he was desperately worried "day and night" about them,

There are similar calls in Germany, with major German media organisations urging Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to create an emergency visa programme for its Afghan employees in an open letter.

The New Zealand Cabinet will announce this afternoon if it will evacuate Afghan nationals who assisted New Zealand’s military efforts.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report that there are close to 30 New Zealand citizens and their families living in Afghanistan, while fewer than 40 people who are ineligible for a 2012 policy to resettle to New Zealand have made contact with the Government.

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