Written by By Staff Writer
Bastiaan Adib, Lubna Kohnosh; CNN
Women will be banned from playing prominent roles in Afghanistan’s leading television dramas under the new media rules approved by the Taliban last month.
On December 16, the Islamist group’s media commission announced it was banning “insulting” and “harming the religion and dignity of the Prophet Mohammed.”
CNN has spoken to several Afghan journalists who share their reactions to the new media guidelines.
The decisions have left journalists concerned that these dramas will no longer be able to portray the reality of a modern society.
Sophia Sahar, an Afghan journalist and producer
CNN: What was the reaction from your fellow journalists to the new Taliban directives?
Sophia Sahar: We all fear this decision will be taken to Afghanistan’s one and only TV channel, Pajhwok Afghan News. Over the last two months, their managing director Zaeefat Rasooli has been withdrawing from the public. We have less viewers nowadays because many Afghans do not have airtime. If there are no dramas to watch, people won’t have anything to entertain themselves.
How did the ban affect your production of a “potpourri” of traditional dramas?
The new guidelines don’t cover television dramas in traditional Afghan culture. Our soaps require months of preparation. For example, a five-year-old girl “belongs” to the family of a famous actor. They ask for her to be considered in dramas with the youth. Now, the families will no longer let their daughters be in front of the camera.
Who are you most concerned about?
Honestly, I’m worried for our young people. When they reach the age where they have the financial power to start their own production companies, they will no longer feel necessary to watch Pajhwok Afghan News. This is an Afghan trend. It will have far-reaching consequences.
Carmen Saghafi, TV producer
CNN: Will this ban affect your production of women-centered dramas in Afghanistan?
Carmen Saghafi: In many of our soaps, the young actresses play key roles. Sometimes, we have storylines that enable them to gain success. But those stories are no longer possible. I didn’t know about this ban.
Do you think the ban will prevent viewers from understanding the true nature of the Taliban?
We will see. Let’s assume these guidelines are introduced in the right context. Then, there’s no problem. On the other hand, we may have a different set of rules, including creating our own infidels.
Ankur Ahmed, Public Relations Manager at Afghanistan Private TV
CNN: What do you think of the new Taliban guidelines?
Ankur Ahmed: At first I was confused and worried because I’m sure viewers will be shocked to see women on TV. Afghan media played a very effective role in bringing together women and men. We now live under circumstances where women are prevented from going to work, education or marriage — even when the men in their lives don’t require it. Many Afghan women haven’t even witnessed modern TV dramas.