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International Federation of Journalists hits out at restrictions on press freedom in Afghanistan

THE International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned Taliban guidelines that restrict press freedom today, warning that they exclusively targets women journalists.

It was responding to eight edicts issued by the Islamists last week, including the prohibition of the screening of films or television programmes “against Islamic or Afghan values.”

Ministry of Virtue and Prevention of Vice spokesman Hakif Mohajir said that the new rules mean broadcasters must stop airing soap operas or dramas featuring women.

All women journalists are now required to wear an Islamic hijab while at work, according to the new guidelines.

Restrictions have also been placed on comedy shows that humiliate people and films that go against Afghan law, as interpreted by the Taliban.

The measures have been introduced despite initial promises that press freedom and women’s rights would be protected by the new administration which came to power in August.

Speaking at the time Taliban spokesman Zabihulla Mujahid said that “media reporting will be useful to society and will be able to correct the leaders’ errors,” as he gave assurances to Reporters Without Borders.

Under the previous period of Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001, all media was banned except Voice of Sharia, which broadcast propaganda and religious programmes.

According to the Afghanistan National Journalists Union, at least 257 media organisations have been shut since the Taliban regained control of the country while 67 per cent of journalists are now unable to work.

“Despite suggestions to the contrary, the Taliban’s religious ‘guidelines’ are tantamount to law and will be used to unduly persecute members of the media. 

“The IFJ strongly condemns the Taliban’s continued efforts to stifle press freedom and the intensification of the regime’s campaign against women’s rights,” a statement said.

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