Taliban issue media guidelines, ban shows with actresses

KABUL (Reuters) – The Taliban administration has issued a set of restrictions on Afghan media, including banning television series featuring actresses and ordering news anchors to wear “Islamic hijabs.”

The Afghan Ministry of Vice and Virtue laid out nine rules this week, a spokesman for the Taliban administration said on Tuesday, mainly focused on banning any media that violate “Islamic or Afghan values.”

Some decrees specifically targeted women, a move that may raise concerns in the international community.

“These dramas … or programs in which women have performed, should not be broadcast,” the rules said, adding that on-air female journalists should wear “the Islamic hijab” without defining what that meant.

Although most Afghan women wear headscarves in public, statements by the Taliban that women should wear the “Islamic hijab” have often in the past worried women’s rights activists who said the term was vague and could be interpreted conservatively.

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

“The disappearance of all space for dissent and the deepening of restrictions on women in media and the arts are devastating,” Patricia Gossman, associate director for Asia at HRW, said in a statement.

Although Taliban officials have sought to publicly assure women and the international community that women’s rights will be protected since taking control of Afghanistan on August 15, many activists and women have remained skeptical.

During the previous Taliban regime, strict restrictions were placed on the ability of women to leave home, unless accompanied by a male relative, or received an education.

(Reporting from the Kabul office; additional reporting by Jibran Ahmed in Peshawar; writing by Charlotte Greenfield)

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