Photo: UNAMA

Taliban Bars Women from Contacting the Media 

KHOST, AFGHANISTAN – Taliban authorities in Eastern Afghanistan have ordered women and girls to not contact local media, warning media outlets against airing female voices in their programs.

In a statement on Sunday, February 25, the Afghanistan Journalist Center (AFJC) voiced concern over the latest development, which further undermines women’s freedom of expression.

AFJC says it has obtained a copy of an official letter dated Saturday, February 24, signed by the Taliban police chief in Khost province, Abdul Rasheed Omari, which claims that women’s involvement with local media leads to moral corruption in society and violates Islamic values.

“Some private radio stations in Khost are promoting moral corruption, such as broadcasting school lessons or social programs involving many girls,” the letter read. “Girls are engaging in illegal phone calls with the presenters of these programs during official and unofficial hours, leading to moral corruption in society and violating Islamic values,” it added.

The latest development arises amidst the ongoing restrictions on the fundamental rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Some international legal experts and human rights defenders have characterized the Taliban’s severe and ongoing restrictions on women in Afghanistan as constituting institutionalized gender apartheid.

The AFJC statement revealed that due to the Taliban’s prohibition on girls’ schools beyond the sixth grade in Afghanistan, some media outlets have launched educational initiatives. Quoting a local source in Khost province, AFJC stated that the Taliban accused these media outlets of using textbooks outside the regime’s mandated educational curriculum.

The latest restriction adds to the mounting numbers of limitations imposed by the Taliban on media and journalistic activities since their return to power in Afghanistan. AFJC says that the Taliban’s media restrictions have significantly undermined freedom of expression, leading to increased self-censorship and a significant reduction in media access to essential information.

Last week, AFJC reported that Taliban authorities in southern Kandahar province have prohibited photography and filming in all meetings involving their local officials. Days later, a local media outlet reported that Taliban authorities instructed media workers in Afghanistan to refrain from shaving their beards and photography.

The latest restriction, issued with a warning from the Taliban police headquarter in Khost province, threatens media officials with summoning and prosecution if they allow girls to   go to media outlets.

According to AFJC, there are currently 15 radios and three private TVs operating in Khost province of Afghanistan, alongside the Taliban-controlled radio and television station. While Taliban media directives are typically communicated orally, AFJC notes that the written warning from Khost police to local media outlets is unprecedented.