An article about Pakistan’s relationship to al-Qaeda, and its knowledge of Osama bin Laden’s last hiding place within its borders, was censored from the front page of about 9,000 copies of the International New York Times in Pakistan on Saturday, apparently removed by a local paper that has a partnership to distribute The Times.
An image of the front page — with a large blank space where the article appeared in other editions — traveled rapidly around social media on Saturday. A spokeswoman for The New York Times said that the decision by the partner paper, The Express Tribune, had been made “without our knowledge or agreement.”
The partner was recently the subject of an attack by an extremist group, she said. “While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures,” she said, “we regret any censorship of our journalism.”
Though the article appeared to have been excised from all copies of the newspaper distributed in Pakistan, the story seemed to be available to Pakistani readers online, Murphy said.
It was not the first time the paper had seen its content changed by local partners. This month, sections of an article about prostitution and other sex businesses in China were blanked out in Pakistani editions of The International New York Times.
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The article in Saturday’s edition, by Carlotta Gall, explores the complex relationship between Pakistani authorities and militant Islamic extremism — which its powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, has long been accused of supporting with the aim of furthering its own strategic interests. The article, which ran in The New York Times Magazine in domestic editions, is excerpted from a book by Gall, “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014,” which will be published next month.
In May of last year, The New York Times’ Islamabad bureau chief, Declan Walsh, was ordered to leave the country on the eve of national elections. His visa has not yet been reinstated, though the country’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, promised last week to review the case again.
In her article, Gall recounted being violently intimidated when she reported on the links to Islamic extremists, and Pakistani journalists have been beaten or murdered in attacks that some claim have involved national security or intelligence forces.