Male TV presenters in Afghanistan came out in support of their female colleagues who have been asked by the Taliban to cover their faces while broadcasting live on-air.

The male journalists at several media outlets have now appeared on-screen with their faces covered with masks in solidarity with their female counterparts. The development came after the Taliban ordered female TV presenters to cover their faces while on-air. The new ruling came into force on May 21.

The Taliban have intensified attacks on women's rights and their freedom in Afghanistan over the last few weeks. The women have been asked to cover themselves from head to toe when out in public.

They are not allowed to board flights without a male chaperone, and cannot even go on long journeys without a male guardian or relative, according to a report in The Independent.

The latest regressive step is being slammed by people across the world. A social media campaign #FreeHerFace has also gained traction on Twitter. Social media users including male Afghan journalists, are posting pictures of their mask-covered faces in solidarity with Afghan women.

"Afghan men showing up for Afghan women is not just a gesture. It's a turn in the story that will change everything. Brave brothers," wrote one Twitter user.

The Taliban had promised a more liberal approach towards women and their rights after taking over Afghanistan last year, but all the steps taken so far have targeted women's freedom. Women are being confined to homes and have been asked to stay veiled.

The Taliban are taking Afghanistan back to the 1990s when women were required to wear an all-encompassing blue burqa. They had no rights whatsoever and their existence had only one purpose and that was to serve their husbands and families.

The UN Security Council in a statement has asked the Taliban to "swiftly reverse" policies targeting fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls. It has asked the Taliban to re-open schools for all female students without further delay. It said these restrictions contradict the expectations of the international community and the commitments made by the Taliban.

Afghan women
Tolonews presenter Thamina Usmani after Taliban asks female presenters to cover their faces. AFP / Wakil KOHSAR