Reed Irvine - Editor
|October A, 1979|
MEDIA FOCUS ON FONDA, NOT FREEDOM FIGHTERS
The top half of the front page of the "Style" section of The Washington Post on September 27, was dominated by a 7 x 9 photo of a smiling Jane Fonda and her husband, Tom Hayden, under a bold black headline: "Harden &Fonda, Back on the Road Again." The story continued on another page, adding up to over one page of its valuable space that the leading newspaper in the nation's capital devoted to the Hayden-Fonda team and their anti-business, anti-nuclear campaign.
The reader who got past the Post's glowing description of the activities of Fonda and Hayden might have noticed on page D-4 a story and photo under the headline "Remembering Russia," which took up considerably less space than the Fonda-Hayden photo alone. This was the story of the opening in Washing- ton of the "International Sakharov Hearings" on Capitol Hill. Over 60 Soviet exiles, including such prominent dissident heroes as Vladimir Bukovsky, Alexander Ginzburg, Mrs. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Andrei Amalrik gathered to tell Americans and the world information gathered from their own personal experience and investigations of the gross violations of human rights in the Soviet Union.
Like Hayden and Fonda, they are dissidents, but one hesitates to mention them in [he same breath. Many of them risked their lives and certainly their freedom to protest and expose the stifling, inhuman suppression of elementary human rights in the world's most powerful and expansionist totalitarian state--the USSR. Hayden and Fonda, on the other hand, achieved worldwide notoriety for their efforts to assist the communist regime in North Vietnam to extend its domination by force over the South Vietnamese. Fonda and Harden made an important contribution in helping to extinguish freedom in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, aiding and abetting one of the client states of the behemoth that the Sakarov group is seeking to expose.
Thanks in part to the work of Fonda and Hayden and others like them, some three million Cambodians have perished since the communists took over their land in 1975. At least a couple of hundred thousand Vietnamese languish in concentration camps, and tens of thousands of others have risked their lives, many dying, in an effort to escape the communist hell that Fonda and Hayden helped bring to their land.
The third Accuracy in Media national conference, "The Media and the Present Danger," will be held in Washington on November 2 and 3. We have lined up another exciting program, details of which you will find in the "Notes from the Editor's Cuff" in this issue. We urge you to join us at the conference if you possibly can.
Note that the program features some outstanding speakers on opposite sides of the issues we will be discussing. For example, Peter Worthington. editor of the Toronto Sun, will be matched up with James Goodale, Vice Chairman of the New York Times at lunch on November 2. The following day we have Pat Buchanan debating Lawrence Grossman, president of the Public Broadcasting Service. Participants will have the opportunity to get in their questions and comments at all sessions, and we plan to record all the proceedings.
The conference will be held at the National 4-H Center, 7100 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D.C. (actually Bethesda, Md., which is just across the D.C. line). The fee for advance registration is $75. After October 20, this will rise to $90, and so we suggest that you register early. It will save you a few dollars, and it will help us make our plans. Accommodations at reasonable cost are available for those coming from out of town.
Fonda and Hayden have not gained the attention of the media because they have acknowledged that they were wrong in supporting the expansion of a regime that has always opposed such things as freedom of press, speech and assembly-virtues that The Washington Press swears to uphold to the death.
At her luncheon appearance at the National Press Club on September 26, the only error that Miss Fonda admitted having made in her colorful past was in stating back in 1970 that Black Panther leader Huey Newton was the only man that she had met that she would trust to lead this country. Fonda said that she had made some "off the wall statements" in the past a statement that the audience showed that it agreed with by loud applause. The one about Huey Newton, who has been in the public eye recently in connection with his trial on the charge of murdering a prostitute, was, she said, "naive and utterly wrong."
But Jane Fonda had no apologies to make to the American POWs who had suffered intensified torture in the wake of her wartime visit to Hanoi. Asked if she had second thoughts about that visit, she said no. She thought her efforts had helped shorten the war.
Nor did either Jane Fonda or Tom Hayden acknowledge that in helping to shorten the war, they had helped hasten the extinction of freedom and of life itself for millions in Indochina. Asked why she had differed with Joan Baez, who had publicly condemned the communists in Vietnam for their oppression of the Vietnamese people, imprisoning tens of thousands of them in cruel concentration camps, Fonda said that she had refused to go along with Baez because she had been unable to confirm the truth of her charges.
It is interesting that neither at the Press Club nor on her September 23 appearance on NBC's Meet the Press was Jane Fonda asked about a fervent endorsement of communism that she made at Michigan State University back in 1970. She was quoted in the Detroit Free Press of November 22, 1970, as having told a student audience: "I would think that if you understood what communism was you would hope, you would pray on your knees, that we would someday become communists."
At the National Press Club luncheons all questions for the distinguished speakers have to be submitted in writing. They are screened by the club president. currently Arthur Wiese. correspondent of the Houston Post. At least one question about Fondds ringing endorsement of communism was submitted at the Fonda-Hayden luncheon, but Mr. Wiese did not choose to raise that unpleasant subject. Similarly. on Meet the Press. columnist George Will made some futile efforts to get some idea of what country or countries in the world Hayden and Fonda think are models for us to follow. The questioners did not bring up the ideological positions which this pair promoted so vigorously in the past, positions which they have yet to repudiate publicly. The closest approach to this was when NBC's Bill Monroe suggested that many people view Harden as a "radical and reckless critic of the American system" and asked if his views had changed over the last two decades. He got a fuzzy answer.
This obvious reluctance on the part of the media to bring up The subject of communism may well explain why so little attention was given to the International Sakharox Hearings in Washington. which put on stage not lightweights such as Tom and Jane. But men and women who have literally risked their lives for the cause of freedom, the survivors of the Soviet Gulag and the Soviet psychiatric torture chambers for dissidents.
Vladimir Bukovsky, Alexander Ginzburg and the others who participated in these hearings were good copy when they were in the Soviet Union. But speaking in Washington, their message was virtually ignored, as we shall discuss below. Perhaps the explanation is that it is permissible for the American reporters who cover communist countries to mention communism, and even to disparage it. But it seems that for the reporters and editors responsible for our domestic coverage there is something not quite clean about bringing up that subject, especially in a critical context. That, it must be remembered, might just give rise to the charge of "McCarthyism." Hedrick Smith, former Moscow correspondent for The New York Times and now chief correspondent in their Washing- ton bureau, had a different explanation. He said that the Times was not inclined to do stories on foreign countries written outside those countries. That tends to exclude reports from refugees and exiles. If true, this is really a form of collaboration with the rulers of closed societies, who by their restrictions can in large degree control what is written by the reporters stationed in their countries. It would seem that papers such as the Times would seek to counteract this by giving special consideration to reports of refugees and exiles, but that is clearly not the case.
Soviet academician and Nobel Prize winner Andrei Sakharov sent a message from Moscow to the International Sakharov Hearings that were held in Washington, D.C. from September 26 through 29. Sakharov, who has been one of the giants in the struggle for human rights in the Soviet Union, said that "openness and publicity" should be the main weapon in the defense of human rights. He said: "I hope that the mass communications media, including Western radio stations broadcasting to the Soviet Union, will devote their attention to the hearings and will convey detailed information about them to people living in the West, in the USSR, and in Eastern Europe."
Sakharov and the many prominent Soviet exiles who assembled in Washington to expose the terrible human rights conditions prevailing in the Soviet Union today were sadly disappointed. The American media virtually ignored these impressive hearings, which heard testimony from over 60 witnesses, much of it information not previously reported.
The Washington Post, which has always displayed a very keen interest in human rights--in such countries as Chile--ran a story about the hearings in its "Style" section under the headline, "Remembering Russia." Vladimir Bukovsky, who has spent a major part of his young life in Soviet prisons or psychiatric wards for dissidents, commented acidly that the Post had relegated its story on the hearings to a part of the paper devoted to "vogues and fashions." We are not a fad or fashion, he said. In any case, the story was not a news story, but largely a piece about how a lot of Soviet exiles were meeting and reminiscing.
Nothing more about the hearings appeared in the Post until three days later when former Moscow correspondent Robert Kaiser succeeded in breaking through the indifference of the Post's editors. However. the headline writer continued on the reminiscence theme, putting this headline on the story: "Soviet Dissidents Tell Stories of Life in the Motherland." And one has to wonder who it was that put quotes around the word "testimony," which Kaiser had used to describe the evidence presented of Soviet human rights violations. Kaiser, who had done a good job of reporting on the dissidents when he served as Moscow correspondent for the Washington Post, reported that the participants "were livid with the Washington media for all but ignoring them." He said that a "Russian-speaking reporter," obviously himself, "was barraged with hostile comments and hurt expressions."
And well they might have. At the time, The New York Times and The Washington Star had not so much as mentioned the fact that the hearings were even taking place. NBC had given a brief report on the evening news of the opening session, but otherwise American television had ignored the event. At a press conference on September 28, Reed Irvine, editor of the AIM Report, asked Bukovsky and Ginzburg if they agreed with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's criticisms of Western media in view of the absolutely miserable coverage that had so far been given to the Sakharov bearings. Bukovsky assailed the Post for treating this serious hearing as "a vogue and fashion." Ginzburg, who was only recently released from the Gulag, suggested waiting one more day to see if Solzhenitsyn had been right.
At the same press conference, we asked whether or not the White House and the State Department had done anything to facilitate the hearings or had sent any word of greeting. Mr. Bukovsky said that while they had received excellent cooperation from the Senate, with several leading senators agreeing to sponsor the hearings, the Carter Administration had done nothing. A letter commending the hearings had been received from Patricia Dertan, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, but she had declined to be one of the sponsors of the hearings because her participation, she said. "might have the effect of turning the hearings into a government exercise in Soviet eyes." (Another prominent human rights advocate who rejected an invitation to sponsor the hearings was Senator Edward Kennedy).
Asked if they had noted any improvement in the human rights situation since President Carter announced that human rights would be the keystone of his foreign policy, Mr. Bukovsky. said that President Carter's words had had some impact two years ago, but that he had since reduced his activity in the area of human rights, partly, Bukovsky thought, because of the pressure he had received from President Giscard D'Estaing of France and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany. Mrs. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: "We talk a lot about Carter's human rights policy at home. Solzhenitsyn is sorry that the human rights position of President Carter ultimately was reduced almost to nothing but words."
Bukovsky asserted that the Belgrade conference held last year to assess compliance with the 1975 Helsinki agreement on human rights was a betrayal. He said that the conference had refused to even discuss gross Soviet violations of the agreement.
These stinging comments from two of the most renowned human rights activists were the subject of a UPI story, but it too was ignored by the big eastern papers. If Alexander Ginzburg made his judgment about our media on the basis of what appeared on September 29, he would have had to say that Solzhenitsvn had been proven correct again. Nothing was reported about the previous day's sessions, including the news conference, in the papers we examined.
Only the concluding session of the hearings on September 29 brought forth some flickering of media interest. CBS came up with a report on its Saturday night news. The New York Times ran a story on Sunday, September 30, which occupied two-thirds of a column on page A-7. But this story appeared only in the early edition of the paper. In the Late City Edition it was replaced by yet another story about the activities of the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the Middle East. As we have already noted, The Washington Post also found room for a story, but The Washington Star held its silence. An assistant national news editor told us that he thought they had run a small item about the charge that some Soviet political prisoner was dying--he couldn't recall the name--but we could not locate the item.
The UPI thought that the International Sakharov Hearings would be of interest to its clients. It assigned a Russian-speaking reporter to cover them, and he filed good stories every day. They were totally ignored by the papers we have examined, but no doubt some editors in this vast land managed to find space for some of them.
The gathering itself, bringing together so many of the outstanding fighters for human rights in the Soviet Union. was unquestionably newsworthy. The sharp criticisms of the ineffectiveness of the Helsinki agreement and the monitoring process, as well as the criticism of President Carter for his retreat from his original strong stand on human rights was a story.
The charge by the lawyer for Anatoly Scharansky, one of the best known of the many political prisoners still in the Soviet Union, that Scharanskyis dying from mistreatment was certainly worthy of attention. Scharansky was being discussed in all our media a little over a year ago. He was sentenced to three years in prison and 10 years in a strict regime labor camp in July 1978. That sentence was vigorously denounced throughout the West. But when his Canadian lawyer, Joseph Pomerant, described Scharansky's present pitiful condition at the final session of the Sakharov Hearings on September 29, the American media took little notice. Pomerant told the hearing that Scharansky's mother had reported that he was reduced to "skin and bones" and that he looked like an inmate of a concentration camp. Pomerant urged that pressure be brought on the Soviets to secure Scharansky's release, pointing out that the Soviets "only act when it is in their interest."
A similar plea was made on behalf of Yuri Orlov, another renowned Soviet political prisoner. Orlov founded the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group in 1976. In May 1978. he was sentenced to seven years in labor camps and five years in exile for "anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation." Publisher Robert Bernstein of Random House told the Sakharov Hearings that Orlov is now ill, but that he is forced to do heavy labor and he has his food rations reduced because he is unable to fulfill his work quotas.
Bernstein said: "He must be released not because it is good for the United States, but because Orlov's imprisonment stands as a symbol of Soviet non-compliance with the Helsinki Final Act." The Helsinki Final Act was signed in August 1975. We recognized the fact of Soviet control of Eastern Europe, but we supposedly got in return their pledge to respect human rights in the territory under their control. It was made clear at the Sakharov Hearings that this commitment has been ignored and that the Soviets have cruelly punished and exiled those who have had the courage to catalog and expose the ongoing gross violations of human rights in the USSR.
We cannot detail here all the evidence of Soviet human rights violations that was presented at the Sakharov Hearings. In addition to the oral testimony of a wide variety of witnesses, the statements were made, available to the press and participants in printed form. The testimony covered evervthing from the continuing persecution of the Crimean Tatars, who are still being harassed and prevented from returning to their ancestral homes after having been brutaly uprooted by Stalin and deported to Central Asia in 1944, to the systematic bugging of telephone conversations and interference with the communications and human rights activists such as Andrei Sakharov
The blackout of this important meeting was worse than a slight to some of the great heroes of our day. It was a blow to the cause of human rights, because it seemed to signal to the Soviet Union that the American news media have lost interest in this subject seven to the point of refusing to publish appeals for the release of seriously ill prisoners of the stature of Anatoly Scharansky and Yuri Orlov.
All the Big Media deserve criticism for their treatment of this important story. The Times was most disappointing, actually killing the only story on the hearings that it had run in its early Sunday edition. Write to Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Chairman: The New York Times, New York, N.Y. 10036. ABC News was the only network that did absolutely nothing. Write Leonard H. Goldenson, Chairman, ABC, 1330 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10019.
One of the speakers at the recent memorial service for former Washinoton Post national news editor, Larry Stern, was Teofilo .Acosta.
Acosta told the service: "I'm from Cuba. I am Marxist-Leninist. I am human. Larry Stern was my friend, one of my best friends. I lured him." Acosta is publicly known as a First Secretary in the Cuban Interests Section that has been set up inside the Czech Embassy in Washington. According to Robert Moss of the London Daily Telegraph, however, he is the station chief of Castro's secret service, the D.G.L "According to a Cuban intelligence defector, who now lives m Miami, Acosta was formally recruited as a D.G.I officer in 1967..." Moss reported. "In his D.G.I. capacity, he toured the PLO camps in Syria in 1969, becoming a member of the so-called 'Palestinian Mafia' within the Cuban Secret Services whose influence is particularly marked today in the campaign to subvert Central America."
Moss' charges were contained in a column carried by the London Daily Telegraph on September 3. He also reported that "Acosta boasted recently to a Congressional staffer that he 'had a number of Senators and Congressmen in his pocket.'"
"While that may be dismissed as a piece of crude braggadocio," Moss said, "There is no doubt that the effort to influence Congressional opinion ranks very high among the tasks that have been assigned to the D.G.I. in the United States by its Soviet mentors."
Even more important than influencing a few congressmen is the power to influence Washing- ton's most powerful newspaper. Acosta's close ties to Larry Stern were not braggadocio. The memorial service where he praised Stern was presided over by Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee who addressed Acosta by his first name.
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WE HAVE GIVEN YOU TEASERS ON OUR CONFERENCE IN THE LAST SEVERAL AIM REPORTS. HERE is the complete program. A registration form is on the other side of this page.
THE MEDIA AND THE PRESENT DANGER
Friday, November 2
8:00 AM-9:00 AM Registration
9:00 AM-10:30 AM The Assault on Freedom
10:30 AM-10:45 AM Coffee Break 10:45 AM-12:15 PM Media Coverage of Closed Societies
12:45 PM-2:15 PM Luncheon: The Responsibility at Journalists
2:30 PM-3:45 PM Media Coverage of Defense Issues
3:45 PM-4:00 PM Coffee Break
4:00 PM-5:30 PM The Media and the Intelligence Community
5:30 PM-6:00 PM Movie The SALT Syndrome
6:45 PM-8:00 PM Dinner (informal)
8:00 PM Paper Media Coverage of Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Saturday, November 3
9:00 AM-10:30 AM Media Coverage of the Power Centers
10:30 AM-10:45 AM Coffee Break
10:45 AM-12:15 PM Media Coverage of Energy Issues
12:45 PM-2:15 PM Luncheon: Why Public Broad casting?
2:30 PM-3:45 PM Are the Media the New Luddites?
3:45 PM-4:00 PM Coffee Break
4:00 PM-5:30 PM The Role at the Media in Nicaragua
6:00 PM-7:00 PM Reception
7:00 PM Awards Banquet Master of Ceremonies: Reed Irvine, Chairman Accuracy in Media
LET ME SAY JUST A FEW WORDS ABOUT SOME OF THE PERSONALITIES WHOSE NAMES APPEAR on the conference program. Clare Boothe Luce's name is almost a household word. In addition to being a writer, former congresswoman, ambassador, and the widow of Henry Luce, the founder of Time magazine, she is a member of Accuracy in Media's National Advisory Board. Murray Baron, AIM's president, is an industrial relations consultant who began his career as an activist in the labor movement. Lubor Zink is originally from Czechoslovakia. His column is syndicated in Canada, and it is said that his trenchant criticisms were a factor in turning out the Trudeau government there.
MICHAEL LINDSAY IS AN EXPERT ON CHINAWHO WAS FRIENDLY WITH MAO TSE-TUNG BACK in his Yenan days. He has been a leading critics of those China experts who thought the communists were leading China to a golden age. Ted Jacqueney was with AID in Vietnam during the war and resigned because of disagreement with U.S. policies. He was one of the first anti-war critics to condemn the new regime for its oppressive policies. Lev Navrozov is a leading Soviet émigré writer. His book, The Education of Lev Navrozov, is a classic. In a recent article he scored the CIA for its ignorance of what's going on in the Soviet Union. He is working on an article that will do the same for The New York Times. Eric Chou was a pro-communist journalist in Hong Kong back in the 1950s. His book, A Man Must Choose, tells how he helped the communists gull foreign Journalists, and how he learned from a bitter experience how wrong he was.
LEOPOLD TYRMAND IS A DISTINGUISHED WRITER FROM POLAND. HE USED TO WRITE FOR THE New Yorker until criticism of communism became unpopular in that magazine. He is now at Rockford College, where he edits the very learned Chronicles of Culture. Peter Worthington not long ago escaped being jailed for violation of Canada's official secrets act. His crime was exposing information on KGB activities in Canada. James Goodale, vice chairman of The New York Times, rose through their legal department. Phil Clarke is a veteran newsman, who has worked for the AP, Newsweek, and Mutual Broadcasting. Gen. Graham was Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency up until his retirement three years ago. Eugene McCarthy achieved fame for his anti-war position and for putting so much heat on Lyndon Johnson that he chose not to run for re-election.
CHARLES MURPHY IS A VETERAN OF THE JOURNALISTIC WARS, ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS IN THE far-flung Luce empire. He has long had a keen interest in intelligence. Jack Maury is one of the more articulate and combative veterans of the CIA. He has vigorously defended the agency in speeches and writings. Si Hersh, on the other hand, authored the articles on the CIA for The Times in December 1974 which triggered an extensive investigation of the CIA. And that is all we have room for, but it's quality all the way.