Afghan girls are now banned from contacting media in eastern province

Afghan girls are now banned from contacting media in eastern province

Written by Leila Hawkins

Photo: by Tasnim News Agency / CC BY 4.0

  • The Taliban has issued a ban against girls contacting radio and TV outlets in Khost
  • Media companies warned they could face prosecution 
  • Local media has been an important source of education since school ban for girls was imposed

Girls have been banned from contacting local media in Afghanistan’s Khost province, according to the Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC)

Taliban police have warned radio, television and other media outlets in the eastern region to not accept phone calls from girls, citing “the potential for spreading immorality.”  

In a letter signed by Abdul Rasheed Omari, the Taliban police chief in Khost, and sent to the Taliban’s provincial Department of Information and Culture, he warned officials at the media companies that they would be summoned and prosecuted if they accepted phone calls from girls. “Some private radio stations in Khost promote moral corruption, a good example of which is broadcasting school lessons or social programmes in which many girls participate,” it read. 

“By abusing these educational and social programmes, girls make illegal phone calls with the organisers of the programmes in official and unofficial time, which on the one hand leads the society to moral corruption and the other side is against Islamic standard.” 

The Taliban’s latest blow to the rights of women and girls 

The AFC noted that the Taliban usually issues communications to the media verbally through its intelligence departments, and the written warning via the Department of Information and Culture is unprecedented. 

The crackdown is another blow for girls in educational programmes, as local media had emerged as a vital source of school lessons since the Taliban’s ban on education for girls past the sixth grade. 

Speaking anonymously to Radio Azadi, one woman from Khost said that this latest ban shows that “women are slowly being removed from society as a whole.”

The AFC has said the ban violates Public Media Law and has called for it to be cancelled. “According to the Public Media Law, which the Taliban government has also considered applicable, journalists are free to do their professional work, and those in charge should not create restrictions or threaten them, but should support them. 

“Based on this law, complaints against journalists and the media should be followed up through the Media Complaints and Violations Commission, but the evidence shows that this commission has been sidelined in practice and irresponsible officials directly or indirectly threaten the media, or interfere in their work.” 

There are 15 independent radio stations and three television companies operating in Khost. 

Women journalists in “two simultaneously oppressing situations”

Speaking at a webinar organised by Zan Times and Afghan Witness in 2023, Zahra Nader, editor-in-chief of Zan Times, said that women journalists are suffering the most from the Taliban’s stranglehold over Afghanistan’s media, “because they are caught at the intersection of two simultaneously oppressing situations: one from being women, and one from being journalists.” 

As well as regulating what they are allowed to publish, female journalists cannot travel alone, show their faces on television, and in some provinces, are not allowed to speak on the radio. As a result many continue to report, but are using pen names to protect their identity. 

“When I talk to my colleagues, I talk about security – I am concerned for their safety,” Nader explained. “But they tell me that for them, it’s more than work – it represents hope. They are contributing, they are raising the voices of the women who are suppressed in their society. It is a way for them to fight back, even though they know there are risks. But that’s what’s important to them, that’s what keeps them alive.”


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