Is Afghan TV anticipating Taliban return by stressing hijabs, less make-up?

February 15, 2012

(Mariam Shakebar welcomes back Kabul's TV viewers after a five-year blackout ordered by the Taliban, outlining the evening's entertainment of a reading from the Koran followed by music, cartoons, interviews and news in Dari and Pashtu. Photo taken November 18, 2001. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov )

An Afghan government request that female television presenters don headscarves and avoid heavy make-up has angered local journalists, who said the move was proof authorities expected the Taliban to regain a share of power. Afghan and U.S. officials have been seeking peace negotiations with the Islamist group ousted over a decade ago as a means to ensure stability after foreign combat troops leave, though the talks are in a very fragile state.

In a letter distributed to media, the Ministry of Culture and Information said it had received complaints from members of parliament and families that female news presenters were not observing Islamic and cultural ethics.

“All female news presenters must avoid heavy make-up and wear a headscarf,” Minister Sayed Makhdoom Rahin told Reuters by telephone on Tuesday, adding this applied to state and private TV stations.

The ministry’s plea came as a surprise to some Afghan media. All female anchors appear with their heads covered, sparking suggestions the directive was designed to impress the Taliban by pandering to their ultra-conservative views. “Since we are at the beginning of serious peace and reconciliation talks, the government wants to show they are like the Taliban,” said Zarghoona Roshan, a radio journalist for 10 years before she joined media development group Nai.
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