Afghan journalists decry Taliban TV 'guidelines'

Published November 23, 2021
A cameraman films a news anchor at Tolo News studio, in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 18, 2015. — Reuters/File
A cameraman films a news anchor at Tolo News studio, in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 18, 2015. — Reuters/File

Afghan journalists and activists on Tuesday condemned new “religious guidelines” issued by the Taliban that restrict the role of women in television, as the country's new rulers move to muzzle the media.

The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice on Sunday called on television channels to stop showing dramas and soap operas featuring women actors.

It also told broadcasters not to screen films or programmes that are “against Islamic or Afghan values” and asked women television journalists to wear the hijab while presenting their reports.

Zan TV, the first Afghan channel staffed exclusively by female producers and reporters, said on Twitter that the “guidelines threaten media freedom” and reduce “the presence of women journalists”.

The Taliban's interpretation of the hijab — which can range from a hair covering to a face veil or full-body covering — is unclear, and the majority of Afghan women already wear headscarves.

The attempt to regulate the media comes three months after the Taliban swept back into power.

Hujatullah Mujadidi, a founding member of the Federation of Afghan Journalists, said if enforced, the guidelines would force “some media outlets, especially television, [to] stop working”.

Many shows rolled out to fill television schedules, notably soap operas produced in India and Turkey, will be inappropriate under the new guidelines, making it difficult for channels to generate enough output and retain audiences.

A ministry spokesperson said after the announcement that the new measures amounted to a “religious guideline” rather than rules.

But Qari Abdul Sattar Saeed, a media spokesperson for the Taliban prime minister, days earlier accused the Afghan media of conveying propaganda for the “enemy” and said they should “be treated harshly”.

'Efforts to silence criticism'

Aslia Ahmadzai, a journalist in exile, told AFP that women journalists “will feel threatened”.

Another exiled Afghan journalist, who wanted to remain anonymous, described the guidelines as “the first step to banning the TV altogether, just like in the 90s”.

Read: Press and Taliban

During the Taliban's 1996-2001 stint in power, there was no Afghan media to speak of — the group banned television, movies and most other forms of entertainment, deeming them immoral.

Despite insisting they would rule more moderately this time around, the Taliban have already introduced rules on what women must wear at university.

Taliban members have also beaten and harassed several Afghan journalists covering protests despite promising to uphold press freedoms.

The Human Rights Watch condemned the television guidelines.

The “new media regulations and threats against journalists reflect broader efforts to silence all criticism of Taliban rule”, said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at the Human Rights Watch.

Many journalists are living in fear due to threats, the rights group added in a statement.

It alleged that “Taliban officials ... have required journalists to submit all reports for approval before publication.”

Opinion

Editorial

PDM’s lack of strategy
08 Dec 2021

PDM’s lack of strategy

Ever since the PDM’s whimpering end to its first campaign, it has hardly given any reason for the govt to have sleepless nights.
08 Dec 2021

Undertrials’ escape

IN any country with respect for the law an incident such as Monday’s escape of undertrials from a lock-up in ...
08 Dec 2021

Suu Kyi’s sentence

THE military junta that holds sway in Myanmar clearly wants to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi does not participate in...
07 Dec 2021

Losing fiscal discipline

ONE of the several changes proposed in the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act of 2005, seeking major...
07 Dec 2021

Taliban brutality

LAST WEEK, the US, the Western countries and other allies joined hands to condemn the Afghan Taliban for the alleged...
Dangerous justification
Updated 07 Dec 2021

Dangerous justification

AT a time when millions worldwide are consumed with anger and despair over the barbaric lynching of a Sri Lankan...