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Afghanistan moves to block WhatsApp, Telegram messaging services

Some media reports, citing unidentified sources, said the move had been ordered by the National Directorate for Security

Reuters  |  Kabul 

Afghanistan’s telecoms regulator wrote to internet service providers this week ordering them to block the messaging services and but it was not clear whether they had complied. Use of social media and mobile instant messaging services has exploded in over recent years.

Social media users and civil rights groups reacted with outrage to initial reports of the move and the letter sent by telecoms regulator ATRA was widely shared on social media. Some media reports, citing unidentified sources, said the move had been ordered by the to thwart the use of the encrypted messaging services by the Taliban and other insurgent groups. It was not immediately possible to confirm the reports. The acting minister for telecommunications, Shahzad Aryobee, posted a message on Facebook saying that the telecoms regulator had been ordered to put a gradual block on the services to improve their functioning after complaints had been received. “The government is committed to freedom of speech and knows that it is a basic civil right for our people,” he wrote. The letter by telecoms regulator ATRA, dated November 1, directed internet companies to block and Facebook’s services “without delay” for a period of 20 days. However, the service worked normally this week and still appeared to be working normally on Saturday on both state-owned operator Salaam and private service providers. Mobile phone services have been one of the big success stories in since the Taliban were ousted from power by a US-led campaign in 2001, but there are also frequent complaints from users about quality and coverage. and similar services, including Facebook Messenger and Viber, are widely used by Afghan politicians as well as by the Taliban.

First Published: Sun, November 05 2017. 02:32 IST