Afghanistan: Taliban ask Afghan TV stations not to broadcast films featuring women | International

A mural of a woman with a crossed out face after an act of vandalism in Kabul last September.Juan Carlos

The Taliban regime began to make explicit its restrictions on freedom of expression, which it claimed until now to respect “within the framework of Islamic law” (Sharia). Among the directives that the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice sent to Afghan televisions, they stress that they do not broadcast films that include actresses, that men appear dressed from neck to knees and that news reporters wear the Islamic veil..

In a circular sent to the media last Sunday, the ministry asked them not to broadcast “content contrary to Islamic law or Afghan values” and “not to promote foreign culture and immorality.” Concretely, it demands that the television channels “avoid broadcasting immoral films” and “soap operas and pink series in which women intervene”.

Television programs featuring “actors in the role of the Prophet or his companions” are prohibited. Also those in which men “are exposed in an indecent manner”, that is to say that they show themselves without covering any part of their body between the neck and the knees.

But, again, it is the women who bear most of the limitations. The ban on films with actresses not only reduces the repertoire to a minimum, but also makes female figures disappear from fiction, as if they did not exist in reality. Significantly, the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice last September replaced the Ministry of Women and moved its headquarters to downtown Kabul.

In addition, it demands that journalists “respect the hijabwhen they appear on the air. It is not known if this clarification means that they will be asked for more than the headscarf that the majority wear, since since the Taliban took power, there has not been a single TV presenter to show off her hair. It is also unclear whether they attempt to ban satire with the requirement that “programs that insult a person not be produced.”

Contributing to the confusion, spokesperson for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, Hakif Mohajir, told media seeking clarification that “these are not rules, but religious guidelines. “. Those affected fear the worst.

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Since coming to power last August, fundamentalists have been progressing little by little in their agenda without taking drastic measures that could provoke a frontal reaction from the Afghans. Journalists and media officials have navigated the ambiguity of a system made visible without announcing themselves, such as the visit of Taliban officials to television studios “to be interviewed.”

During their previous government (1996-2001), the Taliban went so far as to ban television and films, making possession of a video receiver or player an offense of flogging. They also prohibited women from going out without covering themselves with burqa and without the company of a male. However, upon their return to power, they tried to use the power of communication, especially social media, to their advantage and were a little less strict with women (they can go out on their own, but do not allow them to return to work).

During his first press conference, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid welcomed foreign journalists and assured Afghans that they could exercise their work freely “within the framework of Islamic law”. A few days later, reality denied his words when the militiamen forcibly dissolved the first demonstrations of women and arrested and beat several reporters who came to report them. Many journalists, especially women, have left the country since then. Or they try to do it overwhelmed by the increasing censorship of their activities.

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