Taliban urges Afghan media not to air shows featuring actresses

KABUL • Afghanistan's Taliban authorities have issued a new religious guideline that calls on the country's television channels to stop showing dramas and soap operas featuring women actors.

In the first such directive to the media by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Taliban on Sunday also called on women television journalists to wear Islamic hijabs while presenting their reports.

It also asked the channels not to air films or programmes in which Prophet Muhammad or other revered figures are shown.

And it called for the banning of films or programmes that were against Islamic and Afghan values. "These are not rules but a religious guideline," a ministry spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

The new directive was widely circulated late on Sunday on social media networks.

Despite insisting that it will rule more moderately this time around, the Taliban has already introduced rules for what women can wear at university, and beaten and harassed several Afghan journalists despite promising to uphold press freedoms.

The Taliban's guideline for TV networks comes after two decades of explosive growth for independent Afghan media under the Western-backed governments that ruled the country until Aug 15, when the Islamist group regained power.

Dozens of television channels and radio stations were set up with Western assistance and private investment soon after the Taliban was toppled in 2001.

During the past 20 years, Afghan television channels have offered a wide range of programmes - from an American Idol-style singing competition to music videos, along with several Turkish and Indian soap operas.

When the Islamists 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 them 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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2021, with the headline 'Taliban urges Afghan media not to air shows featuring actresses'. Subscribe