The Taliban government issued a number of instructions for the Afghan media on Sunday, including directing female television anchors to wear the hijab.
The instructions, comprising eight points, were read out by the Minister for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice Maulvi Muhammad Khalid Hanafi during a meeting with journalists on Sunday. According to Afghan media, Maulvi Hanafi asked the gathered journalists to cooperate with the Taliban government to counter what he termed "negative propaganda".
“The [electronic] media should not broadcast any films that are against the principles of Sharia (Islamic law) and Afghan values,” according to the instructions, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.
A ministry spokesman, Akif Muhajir, confirmed the veracity of the directives to Dawn.com over WhatsApp. “Yes, the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has issued these instructions in accordance with the Islamic Sharia,” Muhajir said.
According to the instructions, foreign and domestic films that spread foreign culture and traditions in Afghan society and cause immorality should not be aired.
“Comedy and entertainment programmes should not be [broadcast] in such a way as to cause humiliation and insult. [Any] drama that is an insult to religious rites or human dignity should not be aired,” the ministry said.
It added that men’s films and videos that show indecent exposure should also not be aired.
“Female journalists in [electronic] media should observe Islamic hijab,” the ministry directed, adding that dramas and drama-related programmes should not include female actors.
“Serials that depict the prophets or the companions and have a pictorial form are strictly forbidden,” the ministry further said.
Another Taliban spokesman, Bilal Karimi, told Dawn.com that an “advice” has been issued to the media with the hope and request to keep in mind whatever has been mentioned in the letter.
“I can say that this is only advice and an expectation from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” Karimi added.
Despite insisting they will rule more moderately this time around, the Taliban have already introduced rules for what women can wear at university, and beaten and harassed several Afghan journalists despite promising to uphold press freedoms.
Shortly after taking power in August, the Taliban, in their first press conference, had promised to honour women’s rights within the norms of Islamic laws.
The Taliban wanted private media to remain independent and criticise their shortcomings, a spokesperson had said at the time, but made it clear that the media should not work against ‘national values’.
The next month, the Taliban set up a ministry for the propagation of “virtue and the prevention of vice” in the building that once housed the Women’s Affairs Ministry and imposed a ban on women holding municipal jobs.
They also ordered women attending private Afghan universities to wear an abaya — a loose-fitting full-length outer garment — and niqab — a veil covering all of the face apart from the eyes.
When the Taliban previously ruled from 1996 to 2001, there was no Afghan media to speak of — they banned television, movies and most other forms of entertainment, deeming it immoral.
People caught watching television faced punishment, including having their set smashed. Ownership of a video player could lead to a public lashing.
There was only one radio station, Voice of Sharia, that broadcast propaganda and Islamic programming.
With additional input from AFP.