New York Times readers in Pakistan waking up Saturday to read the international edition of the paper saw a big blank hole on the front page after the local printer censored a story that the Pakistani government offered protection to the Taliban and Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Bloomberg reports.
The front page story, “What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden,” is a 4,800-word excerpt from an upcoming book by Times reporter Carlotta Gall. It showed up in most copies of the international edition of the Times but was absent from approximately 9,000 copies in Pakistan, The Times of India reports.
Here’s just a small part of Gall’s article:
This madrasa, like so many in Pakistan, was a source of the Taliban resurgence that President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan leaders had long been warning about. In this nondescript madrasa in a poor neighbourhood of Quetta, one of hundreds throughout the border region, the Taliban and Pakistan’s religious parties were working together to raise an army of militants.
“The madrasas are a cover, a camouflage,” a Pashtun legislator from the area told me. Behind the curtain, hidden in the shadows, lurked the ISI. [The Pakistani intelligence service]
A Times spokesperson told Bloomberg the printer removed the article without its knowledge, and it was unclear whether the relationship would continue.
“We would never self-censor and this decision was made without our knowledge or agreement,” The Times’ Eileen Murphy told Bloomberg. “While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures, we regret any censorship of our journalism.”
As Ravi Somaiya of The New York Times notes, this isn’t the first time the paper has seen censorship. An article about prostitution and other sex businesses in China was similarly blanked out in Pakistani editions of The Times.
From Islamabad, Times photojournalist Max Becherer posted a photo of the front page, asking, “confirmation or denial?”
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