Wednesday, 05 May, 2021


Afghanistan Set to Block WhatsApp, Telegram Messaging Services

Bennie Garza | 05 November, 2017, 10:56

Use of social media and mobile instant messaging services has exploded in Afghanistan over recent years.

The move has ignited a firestorm on social media with users describing it as an assault on their right to free speech.

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. However, the report can not be immediately confirmed.

Acting Telecommunications Minister Shahzad Aryobee said the move was in response to dissatisfaction with the services - something industry insiders rejected. "WhatsApp and Telegram are tools of free speech - if the government bans them, it means that tomorrow they could stand against media in Afghanistan too", Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, Executive Director of Nai, a group that campaigns for free speech, was quoted as saying.

The letter by ATRA, dated November 1 and signed by a regulatory official, set up internet companies to block WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, and Telegram 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. On Friday, there were several reports of interruptions but the reason is not cleared yet as the entire globe faced some unexpected issues related to WhatsApp. But shortly after that statement was made, the Ministry of Communications said it was done in order "to introduce a new kind of technology" following complaints of WhatsApp's service quality.

The movement's main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, wrote to reporters this week giving his Viber number "in case WhatsApp is not working".

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