November 4, 2017
Afghanistan has ordered a temporary ban on the popular encrypted-messaging services WhatApp and Telegram, citing “technical problems” and the need for greater oversight.
The two mobile apps are popular among smart-phone users in Afghanistan — including Taliban militants.
Sayed Najib Nangyal, a spokesman for the Afghan Communications and Information Technology Ministry, confirmed to RFE/RL on November 4 that the order had been issued but did not elaborate on the reasons for the decision.
“Because of some technical problems and for better supervision, we have decided to stop services of these two applications,” Nangyal said.
“It is a temporary decision and ban. It will be effective from today and will be for 20 days,” he added, saying that other apps — such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — are not affected.
The move has triggered a wave of criticism on social media, where users have assailed the ban as an attack on free speech.
Afghanistan’s acting minister for telecommunications, Shahzad Aryobee, rejected that criticism. He said in Facebook post that the regulator was responding to complaints from citizens about the functionality of the apps.
“The government is committed to freedom of expression,” he wrote.
Earlier media reports citing unidentified sources had reported that the ban was ordered by Afghan security officials in order to stymie the use of encrypted messaging by Taliban militants and other extremist groups.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and VOA