The Taliban have banned dramas and soap operas which include women actors. This comes as part of newly announced directive from the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The Taliban also called on women television journalists to wear the hijab when presenting.
The Ministry called for banning films or programmes that were against Islamic and Afghan values, a vague formulation. “These are not rules but a religious guideline”, ministry spokesman Hakif Mohajir told AFP.
Afghan television channels have offered a wide range of programmes — outside of news the most popular have been “American Idol” style singing and dancing competitions and foreign soap operas.
Under the last Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001, there was very little Afghan media. Television, movies and most other forms of entertainment were banned under immorality laws. Ownership of a video player was punishable by public lashing. There was little underground TV or radio. There was only one legal radio station, Voice of Sharia, and it broadcast propaganda and religious content.
Since 2001 there have been two decades of flourishing independent Afghan media. Before August 2021, there were dozens of TV networks and more than 170 FM radio stations. Most Afghan homes now have access to TV and radio. The widespread use and interest in TV and radio meant returning to a nineties-style shut down of all independent media was going to be extremely difficult for the Taliban. Instead they are limiting content. Already many media outlets have closed.
According to a survey by the Afghanistan National Journalists Union, over 70% of Afghan journalists have lost their jobs since August and 80% of media organisations have ceased functioning. Foreign governments and donor organisations have slashed funding to Afghanistan since the Taliban’s takeover. Health care and food supply have suffered, but the media was also one of the industries most reliant on foreign aid.
Journalists in Afghanistan also face violence. The day the media guidelines were announced, a news anchor was beaten by armed men. Dozens of incidents of violence and threats of violence against Afghan journalists have been recorded in the last two months, with nearly 90 per cent committed by the Taliban, says the journalists’ union.
More than 40 per cent of the cases recorded by the Afghanistan National Journalists Union (ANJU) were physical beatings and another 40 per cent were verbal threats of violence, according to a report in October.
Constraints on women in media follow other attacks on freedoms for women and girls. Women have been removed from many workplaces and university until “secure” “Islamic” environments can be established, including segregated classes. The Taliban have said their restrictions on women working and girls studying remain “temporary”.
• A feminist speaks from inside Afghanistan, Solidarity 607