Monday, June 14, 2010

Point Blank

Of course, everyone who has seen today's International Herald Tribune (IHT) which comes as part of the Express Tribune is wondering about the big gaping blank space on the international paper's printed op-ed pages.



Partial scan of IHT op-ed pages: empty space can be seen to the right of editorials  


You need only to see the front page of the IHT to see what that big gaping hole is all about. On the front page is the following teaser to what should have been inside:

One myth, many Pakistans

"A lethal attack on two mosques that killed more than 80 members of the Ahmadi religious sect was the result of years of ignoring religious diversity, writes Ali Sethi. PAGE 6"


Ali Sethi is of course the first-time novelist of The Wish Maker and journalists Jugnu Mohsin and Najam Sethi's son. You can read the full article, as it was published elsewhere in the IHT editions, here.

Having read the piece, however, I am at a loss to understand why it was considered necessary to pull this piece out, and that too so apparently last minute that nothing could be substituted for it. Sethi is not the most gifted of writers but, really, there is little in the article that is so shocking or so provocative that it should make the ET administration quake in their boots about possible repercussions. Even more bizarrely, ET editorials themselves have taken stronger lines against religious quackery and discrimination, one evidence of which can be seen here.

The blank space also recalls that particular era of Pakistani journalism, just after General Ziaul Haq imposed martial law in 1977, when military censorship was forcing newspapers to drop reports and articles that went against the regime. Newspapers responded by printing blank spaces in their stead, and sometimes entire front pages were printed blank, until the military authorities cottoned on to the fact that journalists were effectively conveying the brutal censorship to the public at large. Thereafter the military authorities forced newspapers to substitute other articles and reports for the censored material and forbade blank spaces. But of course the difference here is that there was no one ostensibly forcing the management of ET to censor its own partner publication.

What might be even more interesting to see is how the IHT editors and management respond to this censorship. Censorship of the IHT is no small matter - especially given how prized Americans hold the concept of free speech - and this may indeed have consequences for ET's relationship with IHT.

Watch this (non-blank) space for developments.

21 comments:

faisal said...

yeh tou hona hi tha

Farooq Termezayev said...

It probably has something to do with the fact that Sethi refers to Ahmedi mosques as mosques, which is illegal in Pakistan. An ironic twist of fate brought about by the draconian anti-Ahmedi laws.
And I would imagine that the IHT would not take kindly to editing the text so the ET would have been obliged to leave it out altogether.

Unus said...

I have always maintained that ET reminds me of the empty, chicken-shit versions of pakistani liberals who would make hue and cry against Israel and drone attacks and what not, but chicken out when it comes to atocities commited in the name of Islam.

That's why I stick to the few genuine and ballsy liberals one usually finds in Dawn.


This is quite sickening, really. Zia's ghost is smiling. Does ET idiots and checken shit burger munching dildos know how journalists and newspapers fought hard against the Zia dictator against exactly the kind of thing that ET pulled today. Shame.

Anonymous said...

@Unus, that's an unfair criticism of ET. They've published tons of articles against the Ahmedi killings, same as Dawn. There is one linked to in the blog post above also.

It makes sense though that the reason for the articles removal is the word "mosque". Quite sadly gutless of the Tribune. Making a judgement call like that so early after their launch is guaranteed to hurt them. It'll make me think of them as cowards for example.

Hamza said...

I think it's a bit harsh to single out ET for not publishing this article. No Pakistani newspaper has dared to called an Ahmadi religious site a mosque. It's a shame that no-one has, but everyone is complicit, not just the good folks at ET.

Muhammad Shahid said...

@Farooq:-

The law refers to Ahmedis not allowed to call their mosques as mosques. It specifically places limits on "them" calling themselves Muslims and as such. Legally (not socially) speaking a "constitutional" Muslim can call it a mosque.

anna said...

@Hamza

Najam Sethi did call them mosques in at least one of his articles published in the Friday times. Unfortunately, there were apparently no other journalists/newspaper owners etc. who had the balls to do that.

Magnum said...

Now how are we so sure that the article was wiped out only because Sethi had used the word 'mosque?' I have a feeling there's more to it.
ET continues to dissapoint.

Zee said...

To my mind, the part of Sethi's piece that was deemed too controversial had to have been his questioning of the raison detre of Pakistan, i.e. the two-nation theory. I can imagine that a LOT of establishment types would have been really pissed of by that.

Umair said...

Agreed with Zee. The underlying message of the article is that Pakistan was formed on a flimsy premise, and is paying for it now. I see a lot of people having a problem with that reasoning.

Magnum said...

But I have read men like Irfan Hussain, Kamran Shafi, Cowajee Sahib and NFP in Dawn raising similar issues. How come they are getting away by questioning the whole idea about Pakistan whereas ET can't. Or thinks it can't? Strange.

Anonymous said...

@ farooq, anon 11.02,anna and hamza
what you are saying is not entirely true. the editorials as well as articles published in herald, newsline and friday times on lahore carnage used the word mosques for worship places of the ahmediya community.

rumana said...

Maybe ET owners/managers etc. believe in the nazariya too strongly and didn't want the article printed like that.

Anonymous said...

May be someone should ask ET why they did it. Anyone know anyone at ET?

mahnat kar hasad na kar said...

i fully agree with 'ye to hona hi tha'...basically, ET and IHT are strange bed-fellows. The American free speech is seeped in anti-Muslim feelings...so be prepared to see many blank spaces as the marriage goes closer to the rocks. Ya it has to be seen how IHT takes it...the partnership buster

Anonymous said...

What exactly does nizariya mean? can anyone please enlighten?

Anonymous said...

i don't get it. why did they leave the space blank?

Anonymous said...

So the Lakhanis wanted a supersized BigMac with lotsa cheese but the Express Tribune has turned out to be a nugget Happy Meal with a free toy thrown in. Well, not so happy it appears. And the manufacturers of the IHT toy are not going to be amused by what the children are doing to their product

know it all said...

In my humble opinion, nothing will happen to the IHT/ET relationship as long as the financial obligations/expectations are met. I am sure it was because of the use of terminology such as "mosque" rather than questioning Pakistan that led to this---Pakistanis are after all way more hyper-sensitive about Islam than Pakistan---I wish it was the other way round--but it isn't.

As for Ali Sethi's piece, i read it in the nyt and thought it was pretty shitty---couldn't really figure out what he was trying to say.

Anonymous said...

@know it all: interestingly, if pakistani newspapers started leaving blanks spaces in place of every shitty article scheduled for printing, we'd finally have ink-free clean toiletpaper deliveries every morning :D

know it all said...

@ Anon at 1:31 pm---I am not saying that the article should have been blanked out. I am just saying that it wasn't a great article and that I don't think it will make much difference to the relationship with IHT--this does not mean that it should be blanked out---of course blanking it out made ET look stupid.