Center for Strategic Communication

The Pakistani government’s censorship of The Long War Journal has entered its third year. Sources in Pakistan have said that the website has been banned from viewing due to LWJ‘s reporting on the preferential treatment given by the Pakistani military and government to “good Taliban” factions such as the Haqqani Network.

LWJ first learned its website was blocked inside Pakistan in July 2012, when journalists from newspapers such as The New York Times, employees at the United Nations and NGOs, and readers living in Pakistan emailed LWJ to note that the website was unavailable. Some some reporters, such as Rob Crilly from The Telegraph and Mehreen Zahra-Malik from Reuters, mentioned the ban on Twitter.

Some of those attempting to visit the website received a generic message that did not indicate why the reader could not access the page. “This webpage is not available. The connection to was interrupted,” one such message read, according to an LWJ reader inside Pakistan.

The denial message has changed over the years. In October 2013, Jonathan Boone, a journalist for the Guardian, noted on Twitter that LWJ was blocked on “PTCL [Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd], Warid and Mobilink,” and published an image of the message received when attempting to access the site via Mobilink.

“Surf Safely. This website is not accessible. The site you are trying to access contains content that is prohibited from viewership within Pakistan,” the message read. That same message was encountered by Hassan Abdullah, a journalist based in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Pakistani government has not commented on why it has censored LWJ.

Several requests for comment from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington have thus far proven unsuccessful. Official inquiries to the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority, which is responsible for implementing the ban, have also gone unanswered.

Cyril Almeida, an assistant editor, writer, and columnist at Dawn, one of Pakistan’s oldest and largest English-language newspapers, confirmed in June 2013 that the Pakistan Telecommunication Company has blocked LWJ‘s website.

LWJ has also confirmed, via sources inside the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd and the Ministry of Information, that the government has blocked the website.

The sources, who wish to remain anonymous for fear of being punished by the government or their employers, have said that the government has censored LWJ due to its reporting on the ‘good Taliban’ versus the ‘bad Taliban.’ This reporting undermines the government and military’s narrative that Pakistan is serious about fighting terrorist groups, the officials said.

The Pakistani state considers Taliban groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group in North Waziristan, and the Mullah Nazir Group in South Waziristan, to be good Taliban as they do not advocate attacking the Pakistani state and instead direct their forces to fight in Afghanistan. These independent Taliban factions are considered to be strategic depth against the Indians in Afghanistan.

The bad Taliban are the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Punjabi Taliban, and other jihadist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Turkistan Islamic Party in the tribal areas that threaten or actively attack the Pakistani state.

But the good Taliban shelter and support the bad Taliban, as well as al Qaeda. Top al Qaeda, Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders and operatives have been killed in US drone strikes in areas under the control of the so-called good Taliban in the past.

Additionally, LWJ‘s reporting on Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terrorist groups has incensed members of the Pakistani establishment. These groups are supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, its military, and members of the government, while maintaining close relationships with al Qaeda and other global and regional jihadist groups.

Tweets noting that LWJ is blocked in Pakistan, ordered from the present to July 2012: