Magazine article The Nation

The Unfree Press

Magazine article The Nation

The Unfree Press

Article excerpt

The Unfree Press

The White House said that President Reagan's October 7 speech to the Organization of American States was "intended as a conciliatory gesture,' and that is how much of the U.S. media played it. In fact, each Reagan utterance on Nicaragua seems to come adrift from a new anchor of reality. This time it was press freedom. Assailing the Sandinistas for "granting temporary freedoms in order to placate world opinion,' Reagan said: "La Prensa and Radio Catolica have been allowed to reopen, but the other independent papers remain closed.' How's that again? For years now, the entire symbolic value of La Prensa has rested on the notion that it is the country's only independent paper (leaving aside, for the moment, the fact that it receives funding from the National Endowment for Democracy). Perhaps Reagan thinks the Sandinistas, to comply with the Central American peace plan, should revive Somoza's old daily, Novedades.

Even as Reagan was speaking, Corazon Aquino was shutting down three opposition radio stations in the Philippines for much the same reason the Sandinistas had given for closing La Prensa--for lending support to an armed movement seeking to overthrow the government. The State Department thought this was fine. The double standard is another reminder that press freedom is the most elastic of yardsticks, the most vulnerable to the talents of the propagandist. Some cases become international causes celebres; others just settle into the almost inaudible background hum of daily abuse. This second category often affects friends of The Nation.

In August, Chilean author and frequent Nation contributor Ariel Dorfman was briefly barred from returning home. Two other distinguished Chilean journalists, Marcelo Contreras and Sergio Marras of the opposition magazine Apsi, have been in jail since late August, charged under the catch-all Article 284 of the Code of Military Justice that Chile's barbarian regime has used widely to silence its critics. …

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