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Banning the Internet?

Editorial, DAWN, 20 July 2001

One would have thought by now that with the Taliban's penchant for outlawing almost everything under the sun, there would have been nothing left to ban any more. However, the world has been proved wrong. Arguably presiding over the world's most controlled and repressive society, the Taliban seem determined to make the lives of ordinary Afghans even more miserable and stifling. The latest prohibition decreed by them concerns the use of the Internet, imposed to 'protect' the local population from pornography and western influences.

Those behind this absurd regulation - absurd even from a technological point of view because it would be next to impossible to actually enforce it - obviously have no regard for the endless opportunities of information and education that the Internet brings. Banning it is like saying that because pollution damages one's lungs people should stop breathing. This analogy is perfectly valid because if a society chooses not to make use of information technology it will be left behind by those who do; the world will not wait for nations that self-righteously reject something as basic as information technology.

Such prohibitions would have made sense perhaps in a wholly regimented society or in a country ruled by a fascist and paranoid government. A government that wants to control the minds and actions of its people to an extent that it is willing to ban any contact with the rest of the world. Perhaps the real reason for this prohibition is that the Taliban do not want the Afghan people to know what's going on in the rest of the world. Perhaps they are afraid that by doing this the population will see just how far they have regressed.