Two Afghan journalists are reported to have been badly beaten after being arrested by the Taliban for covering a protest by women demanding the right to work and education.

Photographer Nematullah Naqdi and his colleague Taqi Daryabi, a reporter, who both work for Etilaat Roz (Information Daily) had been assigned to cover the small demonstration in Kabul.

The pair were later detained and taken to a police station in the capital, where they say they were punched and beaten with batons, electrical cables and whips after being accused of organising the protest.

"One of the Taliban put his foot on my head, crushed my face against the concrete. They kicked me in the head ... I thought they were going to kill me," Mr Naqdi said.

Despite promises of a more inclusive regime, the Taliban have moved to snuff out growing opposition against their rule.

Last night, they declared demonstrations illegal unless permission had been granted by the justice ministry.

Mr Naqdi said he was accosted by a Taliban fighter as soon as he started taking pictures.

"They told me 'You cannot film'," he said. "They arrested all those who were filming and took their phones."

Mr Naqdi said the Taliban tried to grab his camera, but he managed to hand it to someone in the crowd.

Three Taliban fighters caught him, however, and took him to the police station where he said the beatings started.

Taliban officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment from AFP.

"The Taliban started insulting me, kicking me," said Mr Naqdi, adding that he was accused of being the organiser of the rally.

He asked why he was being beaten, and was told: "You are lucky you weren't beheaded."

Mr Naqdi was eventually taken to a crowded cell where he found his colleague, who had also been arrested and beaten.

"We were in so much pain that we couldn't move," Mr Daryabi said. The pair were released after a number of hours.

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The Taliban have claimed they will uphold press freedoms in line with unspecified Islamic principles, although journalists are increasingly being harassed covering protests across the country.

In recent days, dozens of journalists have reported being beaten, detained or prevented from covering the protests, a show of resistance unthinkable under the Taliban's last regime in the 1990s.

The protests are proving an early test for the Taliban, who after taking power on 15 August promised a more tolerant rule and to work for "the peace and prosperity of the country".

Zaki Daryabi, chief of the Etilaat Roz newspaper, said the Taliban's words rang hollow.

"This official speech is totally different from the reality that can be observed on the ground," he said.