Afghanistan: Taliban’s new directives will further muzzle press freedom

The Taliban has announced eight religious ‘guidelines’ which restrict the broadcasting of media that contravenes Islamic values, with several edicts exclusively targeting women journalists and media workers. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the Taliban’s new media restrictions and calls for a restoration of press freedom and women’s rights in Afghanistan.

A member of the Taliban replaces a sign of the Department for Women's Affairs with the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Kandahar on October 20, 2021. Credit: Javed Tanveer / AFP

The restrictions were announced on November 21 by the Taliban’s Ministry of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. According to a Taliban spokesperson, Hakif Mohajir, the “religious guidelines” prohibit the screening of films or television programmes “against Islamic or Afghan values”.

The rules called on broadcasters to cease airing soap operas or dramas featuring women.

All women journalists will also be required to wear an “Islamic hijab” whilst at work, an unclear edict subject to interpretation by the Taliban.

As well as the restrictions on women, the guidelines also prohibit any media that shows imagery of the prophet Muhammad or revered persons, comedic programs that “humiliate people”, and any films that contravene ‘Afghan’ law.

The recent measures follow the eleven media regulations announced on September 19, which can be arbitrarily interpreted to censor broadcast content and restrict press freedom. The restrictions come despite the Taliban’s pledge that freedom of the press and women’s rights would be upheld under the new regime.

Afghanistan’s media landscape has contracted dramatically since the Taliban’s takeover on August 15, with a lack of personal safety, financial stress and harsh restrictions emerging as key issues for media workers. As many as 257 media outlets have shuttered since the Taliban gained control and, according to research conducted by the Afghanistan National Journalists Union (ANJU), at least 67% of journalists and media workers have been rendered jobless.

The IFJ said: “Despite suggestions to the contrary, the Taliban’s religious ‘guidelines’ are tantamount to law, and will be used to unduly persecute members of the media. The IFJ strongly condemns the Taliban’s continued efforts to stifle press freedom and the intensification of the regime’s campaign against women’s rights.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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