Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities on Sunday issued a new “religious guideline” that called on the country’s television channels to stop showing dramas and soap operas featuring female actors.
In the first such directive to Afghan media issued by the Afghan Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Taliban also called on female television journalists to wear hijabs while presenting their reports.
The ministry also asked the channels not to air films or programs in which the Prophet Mohammed or other revered figures are shown.
It called for the banning of films or programs that were against Islamic and Afghan values.
“These are not rules, but a religious guideline,” ministry spokesman Hakif Mohajir said.
The new directive was late on Sunday widely circulated on social media networks.
Despite saying they would rule more moderately this time, the Taliban have 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 Taliban regained power.
Dozens of television channels and radio stations were set up with Western assistance and private investment soon after the Taliban were toppled in 2001.
In the past 20 years, Afghan television channels offered a wide range of programs — from an American Idol-style singing competition to music videos, as well as several Turkish and Indian soap operas.
When the Taliban ruled from 1996 to 2001, there was no Afghan media to speak of: They banned television, movies and most other forms of entertainment, deeming it 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.
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