Afghanistan

Afghanistan, a landlocked country in South Asia, has faced significant challenges in the 21st century, marked by political instability and conflict. The country’s rich history, shaped by its strategic location between imperial powers, contrasts sharply with recent events, including the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021. Let’s explore various aspects of Afghanistan’s internet landscape under the new regime, focusing on freedom of expression, censorship, government surveillance, and internet shutdowns or restrictions.

Freedom of Expression and Censorship

Since the Taliban’s return, Afghanistan has experienced stringent restrictions on freedom of expression and significant censorship. The Taliban have imposed strict controls on media, stifling dissent and limiting information flow. Over 245 cases of media violations, including detentions and physical violence against journalists, were reported in the first year of Taliban rule. The regime’s directives have led to self-censorship among journalists, with many fleeing the country or going into hiding. About 43% of media outlets closed, and 84% of women journalists lost their jobs in the same period​​​​​​.

Government Surveillance

With the Taliban’s takeover, concerns over government surveillance have intensified. Afghans have become increasingly conscious of their digital presence, often scrubbing or deleting social media profiles that could link them to the former regime or NATO forces. The Taliban’s control over telecommunications infrastructure poses risks of increased surveillance and potential misuse of biometric databases. This situation raises serious concerns about privacy and the potential for human rights violations​​.1

Internet Shutdowns / Restrictions

The Taliban’s control has also led to fears of internet shutdowns and restrictions. While they have not yet cut internet cables as during their previous rule in the 1990s, there are concerns about censorship, restricted access for certain groups or regions, and intimidation of foreign telecom companies. The Taliban’s approach to the internet and telecommunications could significantly impact citizens’ access to information and freedom of expression​.

Conclusion

The internet landscape in Afghanistan under Taliban rule is marked by increased censorship, surveillance, and potential restrictions. The suppression of media freedom and the looming threat of internet shutdowns pose significant challenges to freedom of expression and access to information. The situation underscores the need for continued international attention and support for the rights of Afghan citizens in this digital age.

  1. Cerulus, L. (2021, August 26). Fears loom over Afghanistan’s internet. POLITICO. https://www.politico.eu/article/afghanistan-braces-for-fight-over-taliban-internet-information-control/
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