Afghanistan: Future professional hopes dashed for women in Afghanistan’s media

The Taliban has closed down Afghanistan’s women’s affairs ministry and replaced it with a controversial ‘virtue and vice ministry’ in a telling and ominous sign for women in the country. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned at the rapid shrinking of women’s space in Afghanistan under the Taliban and calls for urgent measures to support women journalists in the country.

A man walks past an entrance gate with a sign of the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which replaced the ministry of women's affairs, in Kabul on September 17, 2021. Credit: Hoshang Hashimi / AFP

On September 16, the sign of the women’s affairs ministry was removed and replaced with a new sign written in Dari and Arabic reading "Ministries of Prayer and Guidance and the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice". Historically, such ministries are known for harsh interpretation of Islamic law and to ban music, carry out public executions, humiliate women and impose strict dress codes. Women staffers were also prevented from entering the building as the new sign was erected.

The latest policy decision by Taliban leaders follows other restrictions on women in various fields including in education. Large numbers of women journalists are now living amid increasing uncertainty in the country, with vast numbers expressing fear and anxiety at the situation. While some women journalists have been able to flee the country, vast numbers of provincial journalists and other female media workers employed in the industry remain but without any work or prospect of future employment or means to support their families.

Women journalists advise the IFJ that they believe all their achievements in their careers to date will be taken from them under a new era of Taliban rule.

Despite initial speeches outlining a respect for women’s rights and a free media, media workers’ experiences on the ground tell a different story of Taliban control. The Taliban asked all media houses not to broadcast music or programs featuring women. The regime also ordered the removal of Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) news anchor Khadija Amin and news presenter Shabnam Dawran from their posts on August 15. Women journalists have also reportedly been threatened to not continue their work as journalists.

With the help of arbitrary interpretations of Sharia Islamic law, the Taliban previously restricted women’s movements, right to education and healthcare during its earlier rule and control of the country. There is increasing speculation, that a new era of control is imminent and underway.

The South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), a network of the media unions in South Asia,  has expressed concern for the future of female journalists in Afghanistan. On September 19, the regime also announced 11 new media regulations for Afghanistan’s media industry that empowers the Taliban to censor broadcast content and restrict press freedom.

The IFJ said: “What fate awaits Afghanistan’s women journalists? There is no doubt the future is bleak for women in the country’s media – as it stands now, there seems there is no future for media more broadly and the situation for women in media in Afghanistan is even worse.”

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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