An outcry has exploded in Afghanistan as its national government moves to ban messaging services WhatsApp and Telegram in the country.
The move comes amid the fear of Afghan government that the said messaging platform could be used by Taliban in transporting encrypted messages.
With the banning of two messaging applications, Afghanisatan-based journalists, media groups and users of social media have accused the government of censorship.
According to the opposing side of the blocking, the move was a retrograde step and would be resisted.
However, groups supporting the government’s decision sees that it may have been initiated to stop the Taliban and other insurgent groups from using encrypted messaging.
Earlier this week, officials at the body which regulates telecommunications confirmed that they’d written to service providers to ask for a temporary, 20-day ban, citing security reasons.
In his Facebook post, Acting Telecommunications Minister Shahzad Aryobee said that the regulator had been ordered to put a gradual block on messaging services to solve technical problems, after numerous complaints had been received.
“The government is committed to freedom of speech and knows that it is a basic civil right for our people,” the official wrote.
Services including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber are widely used by the Afghan public and their politicians – but also by the Taliban, who are known to operate their own complex messaging and social media operations.
However some Afghan social media users and civil rights groups have criticised the move which they say is unenforceable because it can easily be by-passed using virtual private networks (VPNs).
In his interview with BBC, prominent local newspaper editor Parwiz Kawa said that Afghanistan was finally an open society after years of censorship and any ban on social media would not be tolerated.
“The public reaction – including our own front page – is to resist,” Kawa said.
“We can’t tolerate any ban on social media or any censorship.”
“If the Taliban or others are using these services, find out who is using them, don’t ban them – that’s very sensitive at this stage of Afghanistan’s development,” he added.