Thursday, the country's most prominent news station reported that Afghanistan's Taliban leadership ordered all-female TV presenters to conceal their faces while on the broadcast.
The order was issued by the Taliban's Virtue and Vice Ministry, which is responsible for executing the group's judgments, and the Information and Culture Ministry, according to a tweet from the TOLOnews channel. According to the broadcaster, the statement described the directive as "final and non-negotiable."
The statement was addressed to the Moby Group, which owns TOLOnews and several other Afghan television and radio networks. According to the tweet, it was also applied to other Afghan media outlets.
Several female anchors and presenters shared photographs of themselves wearing face masks on social media while presenting shows. Yalda Ali, a popular TOLO presenter, uploaded a video of herself wearing a face mask with the caption "a woman being erased on the Ministry of Virtue and Vice orders."
On one station, Shamshad TV, implementation of the directive was inconsistent: one female anchor appeared Thursday wearing a face mask, but another later in the day did not wear one and revealed her face.
During the Taliban's first year in power, from 1996 to 2001, they required women to wear the all-encompassing burqa and prohibited their public life and education participation.
After regaining control in Afghanistan in August, the Taliban initially appeared to have loosened its restrictions on women by abolishing the dress code. However, in recent weeks, they have taken a hard-line stance, confirming the worst suspicions of human rights campaigners.
The Taliban mandated earlier this month that all women must wear head-to-toe attire that leaves only their eyes exposed. The proclamation said that women should only leave the house when required and that male relatives who violated the dress code for women would be punished, beginning with a summons and progressing to court hearings and jail terms.
In addition, the Taliban leader issued an edict prohibiting girls from attending school after sixth grade, overturning Taliban leaders' previous assurances that girls of all ages would be permitted an education.