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Bakiev, Rahmon, And 'The Sun'

A screen grab of the bungled image in 'The Sun,' which has been circulating online.

A screen grab of the bungled image in 'The Sun,' which has been circulating online.

A bold, sensational headline: "Coup 'kills 100.'" A lasting image of a pipe-wielding civilian towering over wounded police like a hunter over baby seals. A breakout box explaining a "nation let down" and their president who "fled." And a story dotted with phrases like "the Thatcher of Kyrgyzstan" and talk of "revolution."

It's a striking example of a world news story worthy of one of Britain's finest tabloids. But "The Sun" missed the mark on one key point. The "Pres" pictured in the breakout is not from Kyrgyzstan, whose leader Kurmanbek Bakiev was ousted in early April, but of Emomali Rahmon, president of neighboring Tajikistan.

"The Sun" has since corrected its mistake by removing the photo of Rahmon from the web article. But the original is still making waves in Tajikistan, where some media outlets are having fun with the original, and there is talk on the streets that this was no mere mix-up, but a "scandal" with hidden motives behind it.

In a story that belongs in the traditional tabloid domain of celebrity, gossip, and family feuds, one of the Tajik president's handful of son-in-laws, the influential Mahmadzoir Sohibov, has been fired from his post as the head of a state committee for material procurement, works, and services.

On the surface, that might not be enough to attract the average tabloid reader, but seeing as observers are telling RFE/RL that Rahmon made the move to stave off accusations of nepotism like those that led to Bakiev's downfall, we suggest "The Sun" hold off on trashing that Rahmon photo just yet.

-- Farangis Najibullah

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