A media group running several popular TV and radio channels in Afghanistan announced Thursday that it had been instructed by Taliban authorities to stop showing drama series on television.
Moby Group, which owns Tolo TV and Lemar TV, said it had received the order from the Taliban’s intelligence agency. The order was issued by the Taliban’s ministry for the promotion of Islamic virtue and prevention of vice, it said.
The group said it was obeying the order and would “temporarily” cease broadcasting foreign drama series beginning Thursday night.
In addition, a former Tolo News reporter has said Taliban authorities detained three Tolo News employees, including the channel’s director, after news of the Taliban’s ban on drama series was reported.
Many Afghan households watch the TV series, which are mostly Turkish and Indian. Their popularity has made them a financial lifeline for the troubled private media sector in the country.
“MOBY Group proposes that issues including the prohibition of broadcasting foreign drama series would be better discussed through a joint commission comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Information and Culture and media organizations, and, in accordance with government principles, the final decision would be officially announced by the Ministry of Information and Culture,” the group said in a tweet that has since been deleted.
The Taliban had already been severely curtailing press freedoms, according to media organizations.
Since the Taliban’s return to power last August, more than 230 media outlets have been closed and thousands of journalists, most of them female, have lost their jobs, Reporters Without Borders said in a report last month.
Hundreds of Afghan journalists have left the country over the past seven months.
The Moby Group, which received funding from the U.S. before the sudden collapse of the former Afghan government, also received assistance to evacuate most of its journalists and staff out of Afghanistan last year.
The Taliban’s Islamic Emirate has banned the appearance and voices of female journalists and presenters on state-run television and radio.
Taliban authorities have also banned most entertainment programs on private TV channels, calling such content not Islamic and morally inappropriate.
Human rights groups have also reported Afghan journalists being detained and tortured by Taliban gunmen all over the country.
“Taliban authorities have carried out far-reaching censorship and violence against Afghan media in district and provincial centers, drastically limiting critical reporting in Afghanistan,” Human Rights Watch said in a report on March 7.
Taliban spokesmen, however, have consistently denied media censorship and have rejected assertions that they are heavily restricting Afghan journalists.