A first draft of a new media policy for Afghanistan, approved by the country’s Taliban leaders and published this week, bans media content depicting women as “divine”, as well as traditional Afghan stereotypes such as naked women dancing or appearing pregnant.
The new press code requires Afghan journalists to be “pure” and “purified,” while contestants on beauty pageants must be of a certain ethnic group. It is unclear whether this would apply to reality television, which is massively popular in the war-ravaged country.
The new rule, as reported by the Washington Post, seeks to revise long-standing laws, instituting the “brand” of Islam as the state’s official religion. Religious vilification would be punishable by death or eternal imprisonment.
The changes were announced following a meeting in Zabul Province by several of the Taliban’s most senior officials and their public relations and media advisors. They include Ahmed Saeedi, a leader of the Taliban’s ruling shura and a popular televangelist; Maulvi Abdul Salam Zaeef, one of the regime’s top officials who negotiated with the U.S. government to support the transition in power in 2001; and an emissary from the region’s ruling ethnic Pashtun community, Allauddin Khilji.
Media policy opponents suspect the code aims to placate Afghan elites, while ensuring Islamist-aligned Afghans control the burgeoning media market.
“The Taliban are giving their supporters assurances that the media crackdown will be limited to the one-percenters, who essentially run the country,” said Julian Ponder, a former U.S. diplomat who has lived in the country for most of the last 20 years. “The problem is that the Taliban have no respect for individual rights, or anything beyond survival.”
While Afghanistan’s government has largely failed to combat the media issue, more extreme Sunni Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS have had considerable success.
A 2014 study by the Afghanistan Journalists Safety Committee found journalists were targeted for abuse by militants at least 355 times in 2014, a six-fold increase on the previous year.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.
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