The Afghanistan government has requested a ban on instant messaging services WhatsApp and Telegram.
The letter by telecoms regulator ATRA, dated Nov. 1 and signed by an official of the regulator, directed internet companies to block Telegram and Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) WhatsApp services “without delay” for a period of 20 days.
The ban was reportedly initiated to stop the Taliban and other insurgent groups from using encrypted messaging.
Services including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber are widely used by the Afghan public and their politicians – but also by the Taliban, who are known to operate their own complex messaging and social media operations.
Acting Telecommunications Minister Shahzad Aryobee also posted a message on Facebook saying that the regulator had been ordered to put a gradual block on messaging services to solve technical problems, after numerous 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.