Liberal newspaper Express Tribune cowed into silence by Pakistani Taliban

When it was launched four years ago, the Express Tribune set out to become the house newspaper of liberal-minded Pakistanis.

A newcomer to a market dominated by conservative-inclined papers, it made a point of writing about everything from the relentless rise of religious extremism to gay rights.

But in recent weeks the paper has been cowed into silence by an unusually blatant display of power by the Pakistani Taliban.

The paper was forced to drastically tone down its coverage last month after three employees of the media group, which includes another newspaper and television channel, were killed in Karachi by men armed with pistols and silencers on 17 January.

The attack was later claimed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a large coalition of militant groups, which accused the media group of disseminating anti-Taliban propaganda.

Immediately following the killings, the paper’s editor, Kamal Siddiqi, sent an email to staff outlining the paper’s new policy.

Henceforth there would be “nothing against any militant organisationand its allies like the Jamaat-e-Islami, religious parties and the Tehrik-e-Insaf”, the rightwing party led by Imran Khan, that strongly opposes military operations against the TTP.

There would also be “nothing on condemning any terrorist attack”, “nothing against TTP or its statements” and “no opinion piece/cartoon on terrorism, militancy, the military, military operations, terror attacks”.

Reporters have been banned from describing a movement responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians, soldiers and police as “outlawed” or “militant”.

Related: A Pakistani court convicted five men on Saturday of murdering a young television reporter, his brother said, marking the first time anyone has been convicted for killing a Pakistani journalist.

Wail Babar, a 28-year-old journalist for Geo news, covered the seamy side of Karachi, a sweltering port megacity of 18 million people. He reported on drugs, crime, militancy and deadly turf struggles between the city’s main political parties.

He was shot dead on Jan. 13, 2011 as he left work.

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