Presented as "religious guidelines," the new rules roll back 20 years of advancement in women's participation in media.
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When the Taliban fell from power in 2001, Western-backed television outlets sprang up around the country. In the following two decades female actors and journalists forged new careers in the budding field of Afghanistan’s media industry. Now the jobs of these pioneers may be in jeopardy, as the Taliban announces new restrictions on media.
National Post reports that the new restrictions include a ban on all televised dramas that feature female actors. This includes imported soap operas from India and Turkey and an American Idol-styled singing competition. In addition, all female news broadcasters have been told they should wear an “Islamic hijab.”
These new restrictions were the first edict of the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which was installed by the Taliban earlier this year. While the statement was presented more as guidelines than hardened restrictions, many see the guidelines as a sign that, contrary to what they promised, the Taliban will not exercise moderation in its rulings.
DW notes that the new guidelines reiterated the ban on any media that shows an image of the prophet Muhammad or other revered figures. They have also placed a ban on images that show an unclothed male torso. They quoted the spokesman of the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice:
‘These are not rules but a religious guideline,” ministry spokesman Hakif Mohajir told news agency AFP.
Mohajir went on to state that these are not mandates, but he did note that they should be kept in mind during broadcasts. There has been no indication as to what penalties may be imposed if they are broken.UCA reports that the last time the Taliban was in power, breaking restrictions on privately owned televisions and VCRs was punishable by public lashing.
In that era, from 1996 to 2001, there was only one media source that was accepted by the Taliban. This was the Voice of Sharia radio program, which was a source of propaganda in support of the Taliban’s regime. During this time, all other media was deemed “immoral” and was completely banned by the Islamists.