Pakistani publisher of NYT censors photo of gay couple kissing | world | Hindustan Times
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Pakistani publisher of NYT censors photo of gay couple kissing

The Pakistani publisher of The New York Times removed a picture of a gay man in China kissing his boyfriend from the front page of the newspaper last week, the latest in a series of instances of the daily being censored in the country.

world Updated: Feb 01, 2016 15:05 IST
HT Correspondent
Pakistan censors photo of gay couple on cover of New York Time
Pakistan censors photo of gay couple on cover of New York Time

The Pakistani publisher of The New York Times removed a picture of a gay man in China kissing his boyfriend from the front page of the newspaper last week, the latest in a series of instances of the daily being censored in the country.

The photograph featured two men - Sun Wenlin and Hu Mingliang – who sued the civil affairs bureau in the Chinese city of Changsha after they were not allowed to register to marry.

“This picture was removed by our publishing alliance in Pakistan. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal,” said a caption below the large blank space on the page in the January 29 edition of the daily.

The New York Times is distributed in Pakistan along with The Express Tribune, which also publishes the daily. Homosexuality is a crime in Pakistan though prosecutions for offences are rare.

Last month, The Express Tribune censored a New York Times article about attacks on secular and progressive bloggers in Bangladesh. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan said the Pakistani publisher had decided that readers could have found some comments in the article about the Quran and Prophet Mohammed “blasphemous”.

It is not unusual for readers of The New York Times in Pakistan to find huge blank spaces after the censorship of articles and photographs. In March 2014, a New York Times story about what Pakistani officials knew about Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country was censored from the front page.

However, most of the censored content can easily be accessed by Pakistanis on the website of the New York Times.

“Nevertheless, the censorship is troubling. Even in the digital age, blank newspaper pages are a disturbing symbol of the lack of free expression in many parts of the world,” Sullivan wrote in a piece titled “Pakistani censorship ‘runs counter’ to Times values” that was posted on the New York Times website.

Kamal Siddiqi, editor of The Express Tribune, told The Washington Post, his newspaper has an agreement with The New York Times that it can refuse to publish articles or photographs that “may cause problems locally”.

“You will not see a picture in Pakistan of men kissing,” Siddiqi said. “In fact, you will not see a picture of anyone kissing.”

The Washington Post also accessed an email sent to a New York Times representative by Siddiqi to defend his actions. He said militants and others have repeatedly targeted Pakistani journalists suspected of “pursuing a Western agenda”, including a 2014 attack that killed three journalists of a TV channel affiliated to The Express Tribune.

“I am as much opposed to the censorship as you all are,” Siddiqi wrote in the email. “However, as editor of the Express Tribune, which has over 200 staffers and brings out editions in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar, I am also mindful of the danger and the lives we can put at risk if we decide to print some of these articles.”