Afghan govt asks for headscarves, less make-up on TV

Wed Feb 15, 2012 3:13am EST
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman

KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan government request that female television presenters don headscarves and avoid heavy make-up angered journalists on Tuesday, 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, 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.

"The request itself is useless," Roshan added, adjusting her two-toned black and grey headscarf. Nai, which also tracks media infringements, estimates there are around 120 female TV presenters across the country.

Nai's executive director Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar said the government had been piling pressure over the past year to restrict content and "keep the public away from the facts they need.   Continued...