Anarticle 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, Eileen Murphy, 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, Ms. Murphy said. There was no answer at a number listed for the partner paper’s parent company, the Lakson Group, on Saturday.
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.
In January, a Malaysian printing firm blacked out the faces of pigs, also in The International New York Times. The BBC reported that the firm said it did so because Malaysia is “a Muslim country.”
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 Ms. Gall, “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014,” which will be published next month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
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.
Pakistan remains a dangerous place for reporters, with at least 46 killed there in the last decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group.
In her article, Ms. 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.