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Tajikistan's Independent Media Hurt By VAT Increase

DUSHANBE -- Many independent media outlets in Tajikistan are struggling to survive an expanded 18 percent value added tax (VAT) imposed on January 1, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Partav Olimov, a financial adviser to several independent newspapers, told RFE/RL that newspapers previously paid 18 percent VAT only on their advertising income, and just 4 percent on other revenue.

Olimov said before the tax law came into effect, businesses with an annual turnover of less than 800,000 somonis ($181,707) could pay taxes under a simplified scheme that made no mention of the 18 percent bracket. That threshold was lowered, as of January 1, to 200,000 somonis.

Nuriddin Qarshiboev, the head of Tajikistan's National Association of Independent Media (NANSMIT), told RFE/RL that independent newspapers have to choose whether to stop publishing or to lay off many of their employees.

Qarshiboev said NANSMIT has offered to convene a meeting between the tax authorities and independent journalists to try to find a solution to their problems.

In recent months -- especially during the military operation against Islamic insurgents in the eastern Rasht Valley last autumn -- officials suspended publication of several independent newspapers and websites. They only recently resumed their activities.

Several editors and owners of these media outlets told RFE/RL the three-month or so suspension cost a lot of money and they now face bankruptcy.

Last week, Avesta news agency owner Zafar Abdullaev transferred the ownership of his company to another person for free in an effort to avoid having the agency be declared bankrupt.