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New York Times Story on Pakistan Censored by Local Printer

By Edmund Lee
March 22, 2014 5:13 PM EDT 46 Comments
Pakistani policemen stand guard as demolition is conducted on the compound where Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed the previous year in the northwestern town of Abbottabad, on February 26, 2012.
Photographer: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images
Pakistani policemen stand guard as demolition is conducted on the compound where Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed the previous year in the northwestern town of Abbottabad, on February 26, 2012.

A New York Times story saying Pakistan’s government protected Taliban forces was censored by the publisher’s printing partner in that country, resulting in a blank hole on the front page of its international edition.

The article, a 4,800-word excerpt from a forthcoming book by Times reporter Carlotta Gall to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt next month, appeared in the New York Times magazine in the U.S. and was intended as a front-page article of the International New York Times. While the story appears on most copies of the international edition, it doesn’t show up in papers distributed in Pakistan, about 9,000 copies, according to the publisher.

The Times’s Pakistan printer, part of the Express Tribune newspaper in that country, removed the article without its knowledge, according to Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy.

“We would never self-censor and this decision was made without our knowledge or agreement,” she said in an e-mail. “While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures, we regret any censorship of our journalism.”

It is unclear if the Times will continue its partnership with Express Tribune.

Gall’s reporting looks at the ties between Pakistan’s main intelligence service, ISI, and the Taliban. Her article points to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf as one of the Taliban’s protectors who knew about Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts in Afghanistan.

Story, Twitter

The missing story played out on Twitter as Gall herself made light of the censorship by posting a photo of the errant edition on her account with the note: “Breakfast in Islamabad.”

People in Pakistan generally see the media in a favorable light with 68 percent considering its influence as “good,” behind the military at 77 percent and ahead of religious leaders at 66 percent, according to a study from Pew Research Center.

The New York Times re-branded the International Herald Tribune as the International New York Times in October. The publisher, which has been steadily losing advertising revenue, has looked to establish a broader audience by appealing to readers outside the U.S.

To contact the reporter on this story: Edmund Lee in New York at elee310@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sylvia Wier at swier@bloomberg.net; Mike Millard, Sylvia Wier

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