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Taleban rules out lifting TV ban

BBC News, 23 July 2000

A senior official in Afghanistan's Taleban Government has denied reports that the Islamist state is considering lifting its ban on television. The idea was reportedly raised during a week-long seminar on the role of the media held by the Taleban Ministry of Information and Culture.

But information minister Qudratullah Jamal denied the ban would be lifted because of the difficulties in monitoring exactly what kind of programmes people could be watching.

Television is currently banned in Taleban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, and newspapers are only available in towns and cities.

Radio audiences, by contrast, are huge. As many as 70% of the population tunes in to the evening news programmes.

When the Taleban came to power they closed down the national television station, along with all the cinemas.


Later, they publicly smashed TV sets. Photographers and artists also experienced a sharp drop in demand for their services.

The Taleban believes pictures of humans and animals are a form of idolatry and banned by Islam.

There are some exceptions to the general ban. Photographs in passports and occasional filming of important events for foreign consumption is allowed.

There has been discussion among Afghan Islamic scholars as to whether a moving image, which has no physical existence, can be judged a picture or an idol.

New openness

Earlier, a BBC correspondent speculated that the new spirit of openness towards the media seen in Afghanistan during recent months might be followed by a resumption of TV broadcasts.

Authorities recently gave permission for the American TV network, CNN, and the Arabic station, Al-Jazeera, to open bureaux in Kabul.

The Taleban said they believed this move would reduce what they described as media exaggeration and misunderstanding.

The BBC and Reuters news agency have also been permitted to film ordinary life in Kabul, to show the impact of United Nations sanctions.

The Taleban believes the media view of them is often distorted because journalists come to Afghanistan with preconceptions and an anti-Taleban agenda.

Television has proved useful to other governments as a means of reaching mass audiences, and the attractions for the Taleban still might outweigh the obvious difficulties and dilemmas.