Taliban Bans BBC, VOA Broadcast In Afghanistan

The Taliban on Sunday banned British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VOA) broadcast services in Afghanistan.

The ban is the latest in a series of restrictions the Islamist group has imposed on Afghan media to stifle freedom of expression since taking control of the country last August, reported VOA.

“The BBC’s TV news bulletins in Pashto, Persian, and Uzbek have been taken off air in Afghanistan after the Taliban ordered our TV partners to remove international broadcasters from the airwaves,” Tarik Kafala, head of languages at BBC World Service, said in a statement.

The head of languages at BBC World Service also called on the Taliban to immediately remove the ban on its news bulletins, reported VOA.

He noted that “more than six million Afghans consume the BBC’s independent and impartial journalism on TV every week and it is crucial they are not denied access to it in the future.”

VOA, which is headquartered in Washington, has swiftly denounced the Taliban for taking its programs off-air.

“We ask the Taliban to reconsider this troubling and unfortunate decision,” Acting VOA Director Yolanda Lopez said in a statement Sunday. “The content restrictions that the Taliban are attempting to impose are antithetical to freedom of expression that the people of Afghanistan deserve,” said Lopez.

The American broadcaster produces a half-hour news bulletin in Pashto and Dari, the two main languages are spoken in Afghanistan, five days a week for its Afghan partners, TOLO news and Shamshad TV, reported VOA.

The ban on VOA and BBC programs comes as the Taliban are under increased international pressure and condemnation for keeping schools shuttered for teenage Afghan girls.

The Taliban reopened secondary schools after the winter break Wednesday, March 23, which also marks the start of the school year for most Afghan provinces.

But the de facto authorities at the last minute decided against allowing girls above the sixth grade to return to the classroom, citing a lack of arrangements for them, including school uniforms, in accordance with Sharia or Islamic law.

A Taliban information ministry spokesman, when asked for his comments on whether they have ordered Afghan channels to remove the international broadcasters from their airways, told VOA he would collect information and get back.

Domestic and international critics say media and freedom of speech have worsened under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

Afghan journalists have been repeatedly detained and subjected to violence by security forces. In December, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released a survey, showing that at least 40 per cent of Afghan media outlets have disappeared and more than 80 per cent of women journalists lost their jobs since the Taliban takeover of the country.

Hundreds of journalists have also left Afghanistan since August for fear of Taliban reprisals or because of problems associated with practising their profession under the new rulers.

More than 6,400 journalists and media employees have lost their jobs since August 15 when the Taliban seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, according to the RSF survey. (ANI)

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