Between the White House and the Kremlin: A Comparative Analysis of Afghan and Tajik Media

Wazhmah Osman


In their postwar, postindependence, and post-Soviet moments, why did two neighbors, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, who share cultural, linguistic, and historical similarities, take radically divergent paths in the development of their mass media, public sphere, and democracy? In this article, I argue against the popular sentiment that the reason for their striking post-9/11 disparities—namely Afghanistan’s relatively open and diverse media environment and Tajikistan’s repressive media regime—is that Afghanistan remains under the purview of influence and development aid of the United States and, conversely, Tajikistan is still under Russian control. Using case examples from my fieldwork in both countries, I demonstrate that the fact that Afghanistan is not unilaterally under the influence of U.S. aid is precisely why Afghanistan has not yet fallen down the slippery slope of commercialization, and its media world remains vibrant and viable, albeit fragile.


Afghanistan, Tajikistan, media, globalization, development, democracy, cultural imperialism

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