Tajikistan Takes on Russian Goliath

Tajik authorities gag the country’s most influential media outlet

Tajikistan pulled the plug on Russia’s state television channel RTR-Planeta on 1 March. Sukhrob Aliyev, head of the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting, defended the move, saying that the Russian broadcaster had run up a 4.5-million-ruble ($135,000) debt. The Tajiks also insist on rewriting a 10-year-old contract with RTR-Planeta, citing a sharp rise in electricity and equipment maintenance costs.

The shutoff of RTR-Planeta, following the shutoff of Russian Channel 1 in 2007 on similar grounds, has deprived the Kremlin, at least temporarily, of its most potent tool for promoting its official point of view to residents of this Central Asian country. Russian TV channels are now available only to satellite dish owners who reportedly account for 15 percent of the population.

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