The Taliban have ordered female Afghan TV presenters to cover their faces while on air.

Media outlets were told of the decree on Wednesday, a religious police spokesman told BBC Pashto.

The ruling comes two weeks after all women were ordered to wear a face veil in public, or face punishment.

Restrictions on women are being tightened – they are banned from travelling without male relatives and secondary schools are shut for girls.

The new decree is being widely criticised on Twitter, with many calling it another step by the Taliban to promote extremism.

“The world deploys masks to protect people from Covid. The Taliban deploys masks to protect people from seeing the faces of women journalists. For the Taliban, women are a disease,” one activist tweeted.

After taking power last August, the Taliban had held off issuing new laws on what women should wear – until this month.

But in early May the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue announced that all women would have to cover their face in public. Anyone refusing to comply now risks an escalating series of punishments.

The latest decree makes clear the hardline rulers’ order on face coverings also applies to women on screen.

“Based on information received by Tolo news, the order has been issued to all media outlets in Afghanistan,” the news channel reported.

The private Shamshad news channel posted a photo of its news presenter wearing a mask, and other similar images are being shared on social media.