Guardian airbrushes censorship of New York Times photo in Pakistan

Our colleague Tamar Sternthal recently reported the following:

One year ago, when HaMevaser, an ultra-Orthodox newspaper in Israel not well-known outside that community, altered a page-three photograph to eliminate Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany from a photograph of world leaders, The New York Times dedicated over 500 words and two photographs (the original and the altered images) to the episode. In the 11-paragraph, page-four article (“Newspaper in Israel Scrubs Women From a Photo of Paris Unity Rally,” Jan. 13, 2015), then Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren provided great detail about the deletion, describing it as prompting “snickers” and “satire,” of being a “sin,” of causing “embarass[ment]” and of amounting to “religious extremism”:

The New York Times wasn’t alone.

The Guardian, Independent, Telegraph and Daily Mail all covered the story, ‘snickering’ at the misogynistic editorial decision at the obscure Haredi paper to airbrush Merkel.

Guardian, Jan. 14, 2015

In her post, Sternthal then fast forwards a year to a story in The Washington Post (on Jan. 29, 2016) reporting that Pakistan’s Express Tribune, which publishes the international edition of the New York Times locally, engaged in an ‘airbrush’ of its own.

As in many Islamic countries, it’s common to see young men walking down the streets here in Pakistan holding hands or warmly greeting each other with a hug. But on Friday, the local publisher of the International New York Times decided a photograph of a man in China giving his boyfriend a kiss on the cheek was too graphic for Pakistani readers.

For the second time this month, Pakistan’s Express Tribune, which partners with and publishes the international edition of the New York Times locally, censored a front-page article or photograph. Instead of running the photograph, New York Times subscribers in Pakistan woke up to find a huge blank space on their paper.

“This picture was removed by our publishing alliance in Pakistan,” a caption stated below the 8-inch by 12-inch blank space. “The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal.”

The photograph was supposed to accompany a Times story, written by Edward Wong and Vanessa Piao, about a first-of-its kind lawsuit in China challenging that country’s prohibition on same-sex marriage.

Here’s a tweet by the photographer showing that the photo, which ran in other editions of the International New York Times, was censored in the Pakistani edition.

new pic

Sternthal informs us that, so far, New York Times editors haven’t commented on the photograph removed from the front-page of its international edition in Pakistan.

Tellingly, the Guardian (as with the Independent, Telegraph and Daily Mail) has thus far similarly avoided reporting on the story – one highly embarrassing to the NYT – on the censoring of a photo likely to offend homophobic readers in Pakistan.

The decision of UK news sites such as the Guardian to highlight censorship in an obscure Israeli paper while failing to cover a similar act of censorship in a major international news outlet again reveals editors’ and reporters’ egregious double standards. 

UPDATE: The headline of this post was revised to more accurately reflect the story

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