Making a mark

The Herald: Cover story, December 2011

Making a mark

Defacement or censorship in international publications

British GQ’s September issue features a portfolio of images by photographer Mario Testino, including portrait of supermodel Gisele Bündchen. You are denied a comparatively innocuous glimpse of the curve of Bündchen’s breast – it has been scribbled over with black marker.

The director of distributor Liberty Books’ magazine division, Jamil Hussain, explains that this process, which the company refers to as “defacing”, is carried out by buyers in the U.S. and U.K.. Liberty, who supplies an estimated 95% of the market in Pakistan, is responsible for the purchase and distribution of 250 titles ranging from GQ, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and Esquire to Harvard Business Review, Time, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest and The Economist across Pakistan. With magazines such as Maxim, which promises “scantily clad cover models and plenty of revealing photo layouts,” Liberty has what Hussain refers to as a “standing order” from the Pakistani Press Information Department (PID) and Customs to ensure that “nothing sexually explicit and anti-Islamic” makes its way into the local market. International buyers approach publishers such as Conde Nast on behalf of Liberty Books, acquiring magazines that are subsequently checked for images that would not pass the litmus test of the market’s sensibilities – Pakistan or the Middle East, for instance. In warehouses in London and New York, black marker-wielding employees restore the modesty of the scantily clad models.

Link to PDF of full article

Link to full article on Herald site

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Author: Sanam Maher

Karachi-based journalist and author My work has appeared in Al Jazeera, The Caravan Magazine, Buzzfeed, Scroll, Women in the World, British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound, Boat magazine, The Express Tribune, Herald, Daily Times, The Friday Times and Newsweek Pakistan. My first book, The Sensational Life & Death of Qandeel Baloch is out in South Asia now, and the UK in 2019. You can find me on Twitter @SanamMKhi Or follow me on Instagram @topbastard

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