Pakistan erases NYT lead story on Islamabad-bin Laden ties

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March 23, 2014

NEW YORK: 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.

March 23, 2014

NEW YORK: 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.

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was traced to Pakistan's Abbottabad and shot dead by US special forces on May 2, 2011.

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 New York Times magazine in the US and was intended as a front-page article of 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.

Gall's reporting looks at the ties between Pakistan's main intelligence service, ISI, and the Taliban. Her article points to Pervez Musharraf, former Pakistani president, as one of the Taliban's protectors who knew about Osama Bin Laden's whereabouts in Afghanistan. (In a counterpoint, CNN's national security analyst, Peter Bergen, writes he is "convinced that there is no evidence that anyone in the Pakistani government, military or intelligence agencies knowingly sheltered bin Laden.")

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".

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".

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 email. "While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures, we regret any censorship of our journalism."

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

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

New York Times rebranded International Herald Tribune as 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 US.


Courtesy: Bloomberg

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