Taliban sets new media guidelines, bans shows with actresses

Some edicts in new Afghan media guidelines were targeted specifically at women, a move likely to raise concerns among the international community.

 Afghan women's rights defenders and civil activists protest to call on the Taliban for the preservation of their achievements and education, in front of the presidential palace in Kabul (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
Afghan women's rights defenders and civil activists protest to call on the Taliban for the preservation of their achievements and education, in front of the presidential palace in Kabul
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

The Taliban administration has released a set of restrictions on Afghan media, including banning television dramas that included female actors and ordering women news presenters to wear "Islamic hijab."

Afghanistan's Ministry of Vice and Virtue set out nine rules this week, a Taliban administration spokesman said on Tuesday, largely centered on banning any media that contravened "Islamic or Afghan values."

Some edicts were targeted specifically at women, a move likely to raise concerns among the international community.

"Those dramas...or programs in which women have acted, should not be aired," the rules said, adding that female journalists on air should wear "Islamic hijab" without defining what that meant.

Though most women in Afghanistan wear headscarves in public, the Taliban's statements that women should wear "Islamic hijab" have often in the past worried women's rights activists who say the term is vague and could be interpreted conservatively.

 Women protest outside the Arg Presidential Office in Kabul, Afghanistan. (credit: AAMAJ NEWS AGENCY/via REUTERS) Women protest outside the Arg Presidential Office in Kabul, Afghanistan. (credit: AAMAJ NEWS AGENCY/via REUTERS)

The rules drew criticism from international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW), which said media freedom was deteriorating in the country.

"The disappearance of any space for dissent and worsening restrictions for women in the media and arts is devastating," said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW, in a statement.

Though Taliban officials have sought to publicly assure women and the international community that women's rights will be protected since they took over Afghanistan on August 15, many advocates and women have remained skeptical.

During the Taliban's previous rule, strict curbs were placed on women's ability to leave the house, unless accompanied by a male relative or to receive education.