After China, Afghanistan now blocks messaging app WhatsApp
Kabul: In yet another jolt to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Afghanistan on Saturday imposed a 20-day ban on WhatsApp in the country -- nearly a month after China reportedly blocked all the services of the popular instant messaging app.
In the move seen as an attempt to curb "freedom of expression" of the citizens, the Afghanistan government has asked several private telecommunication companies to suspend WhatsApp as well as a similar app Telegram in the country, reported The New York Times late on Friday.
Both WhatsApp and Telegram had stopped working for the customers of Salaam Telecom, a government-owned service provider, the report added.
People in Afghanistan termed this decision "wrong and illegal".
"According to the Constitution, freedom of expression is inviolable in Afghanistan. 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 clarity on the reason for the temporary ban was not obtained but the deputy director of the telecoms regulatory authority told that the ban was due to "security concerns".
"WhatsApp and Telegram are often used by the Taliban and other militant groups to evade government surveillance," a report said.
The Afghanistan government, however, said that the apps were being temporarily banned "to introduce a new kind of technology", because users had complained about the quality of WhatsApp's service, denying that the ban constituted a threat to freedom of expression.
Last month, after blocking videos, voice chats and images on WhatsApp, China blocked texting on Facebook-owned popular mobile messaging service -- sending out a stern message to Zuckerberg who has been trying his best to re-enter the country.
According to a CNN report, the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), a global observation network for detecting censorship, surveillance and traffic manipulation, suggested that Chinese internet service providers blocked access to WhatsApp.
Public reports on Twitter indicated that WhatsApp became inaccessible for some people on September 19. Over the last few months, there were a number of WhatsApp disruptions in China.
China has already blocked access to a number of internet companies, including Facebook (since 2009), Instagram, Twitter and Google.