Afghanistan media

Masquerade for Afghan journalists

Afghan exiled journalist Wahida Faizi touched base with colleagues back in Kabul one month on since Taliban ordered all women on tv – including presenters – to cover their faces

One month ago, on the 18th of May 2022 Taliban ordered female Afghan TV presenters and other women on screen to cover their faces while on air. That decree came two weeks after all women were ordered to wear a face veil in public, or risk punishment. Restrictions in general are being tightened on women – they are banned from travelling without a male guardian and secondary schools remain shut for girls.

For women working in journalism the change is real. A female news presenter said to me that she cannot read well the news while wearing a mask on TV. She added that her and colleagues run programs live for at least one hour, sometimes even three hours, in a closed room where there is very little air circulation, and it is very difficult to run programs well wearing a veil.

“I was surprised when I heard this news that Taliban order us to cover our face on tv because using a mask indoors can cause us mental, emotional and health problems,” she said to me.

But still, she and others continue working. In fact, some continue exactly because of all the obstructions.

“I am working in TV because Taliban wants to remove us from media. I work to show them that Afghan women are very strong,” one said to me.

This woman also added that her family had asked her to not work in media anymore.

“But I have told them several times that Afghan women need us to work, for their future and for our own future”.

Male solidarity

Right after the decree was announced male presenters appeared on television screens in masks to protest the mandatory covering of women’s faces.

A woman I spoke to, appreciated her colleagues took to wearing a face mask to show their support, but also quipped that ‘it was just for a few days but we still have to wear mask on tv.’

A TV host from a private channel told me he had plans to wear that mask until the Taliban would abandon their decision, but he was ordered by the management to stop this protest after one week. Taliban had called and ask them to stop using a mask, otherwise they would be arrested.

Since 21st May all female presenters and reporters wore a mask during work on TV channels across Afghanistan. Every channel but one. Kabul News is the only media were not only men, but also women have not used masks so far. As one of the journalists of this media has said: “Despite warnings from the Islamic Emirate, we have not used masks and fight this”.

According to my research no female journalist has resigned due to these restrictions imposed by Islamic Emirate officials. However, a number have mentioned the negative effect on their psyche.

A few foreign media reporters also wore masks to protest the Taliban. A social media campaign, #FreeHerFace, launched in support of women journalists in Afghanistan.