IT&Software

Afghanistan Government Attempts to Temporarily Block Telegram & WhatsApp

Afghanistan Government Attempts to Temporarily Block Telegram & WhatsApp

President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah on Monday overturned a recent decision to ban two social media chat groups, WhatsApp and Telegram. "WhatsApp and Telegram to continue operating in Afghanistan", Javid Faisal, deputy spokesman to government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah wrote on Twitter.

The ban on the two popular messaging services outraged Afghan activists and users, with some taking to social media to denounce it as an attack on freedom of expression.

The Afghanistan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ATRA) has ordered telecommunication companies to block the Telegram and WhatsApp applications, because of security concerns, Ariana News reported citing official letters.

These apps are growing fast in popularity - apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are popular in the west, while Telegram and WhatsApp are more common in the Middle East and Asian countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Russian Federation.

A presidential statement later Monday said Afghanistan's constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the unity government is committed to its constitutional responsibilities.

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It is believed calls for a ban may have been initiated to stop the Taliban and other insurgent groups from communicating via the encrypted messaging apps.

The telecoms regulator later explained the ban was temporary so as to allow experts to carry out necessary improvements in the wake of user complaints.

The editor of one of the country's biggest newspapers said the move was a retrograde step and would be resisted.

But acting Telecommunications Minister Shahzad Aryobee also posted a message on Facebook saying the regulator had been asked to enforce a gradual block on messaging services to solve technical problems after several complaints.

The number of people using social media has grown phenomenally in Afghanistan in the past few years and WhatsApp and Telegram are particularly popular in the country. Some Kabul residents suggested that government should boost its control over social media platforms instead of banning some of them.


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