The Japan Times, March 9, 1997

Taliban bans photos of 'living bodies'

KABUL (Reuter) Afghanistan's purist Islamic Taliban told news agencies and television crews that they cannot photograph or film "living bodies."
The Foreign Ministry sent a letter to news organizations in Kabul detailing "an order from the high authorities."
"Photography and filming of living bodies is forbidden and is against the Shariah (the Islamic legal code) of the Islamic State of Afghanistan," it says.
Since the Taliban first appeared in Afghanistan more two years ago, its members have taken a strong line on television and photography, symbolically hanging television sets in their southern Afghan stronghold of Kandahar.
They say the depiction of living forms is forbidden under Islamic law, although photographic shops are still open in Kabul for passport photographs.
The Taliban, which now controls more than three quarters of Afghanistan and captured Kabul in September, has vowed to impose strict Shariah law on the country. Taliban-controlled Radio Shariaht also announced that the import and export of video cassettes and videocassette recorders by Afghans and foreigners had been made illegal.
"The Department (for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice) has issued instructions that all foreigners and Afghans entering Afghanistan must avoid carrying videotapes and videocassette recorders. It is also forbidden to take video cassettes out of the country," the radio announcement said.
A German television crew recently asked the Taliban's acting minister of information what they were allowed to film.
"It is permissible to film empty buildings and landscapes, as long as there are no people or animals in view," Information Minister Amir Khan Mutaqi said.
However, as is common in Taliban-held Kabul, the implementation of the order has been patchy. A week ago, a French Television crew was granted permission to film an interview with a senior member of the Foreign Ministry.
The only aspect of the order that has been consistently implemented is the ban on photographs of women.
Soon after taking Kabul, the Taliban said it was an obligation for all Muslim men to grow a beard.
On Wednesday it said it would start to punish men who trimmed their beards.
Taliban authorities have also ordered women not to venture outside the home without their burqa, a shroudlike head-to-toe veil with a small patch of gauze over the eyes.