On the evening of November 2, the Afghan social media space was abuzz with unverified reports of an order from the Afghan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA), asking the mobile Internet service providers to block access to messaging applications WhatsApp and Telegram. While the official memo, a copy of which was seen by this writer, did not specify the reason for the proposal, it did mention that the ban would be for 20 days.
An ATRA official confirmed that the request was made on the behest of security services and stated that the reasons given were matters of “national security”. WhatsApp and Telegram are often used by Taliban and other insurgent groups to plan and execute operations in Afghanistan. Interestingly, the Taliban quickly called for switching to Viber, another popular messaging app in Afghanistan.
The government move triggered angry responses from Afghans. Critics of the ban mobilised public opinion on Social networks. “Say #NoToCensorship in Afghanistan,” one Afghan tweeted. “Welcome to Dictatorship Kingdom of Afghanistan!” read another tweet.
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